Family claims man who self-immolated in custody was tortured

The family of a man who doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire in Gahdhu Police station in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll has claimed he was tortured in police custody.

President Mohamed Nasheed has called on the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) to investigate the death, and determine if there was any criminal negligence of behalf of the police.

24 year-old Ibrahim Afsal of Fulooniyage was arrested by police on after he allegedly disturbed people during Friday prayers.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the man set himself ablaze after pouring petrol onto his body from a bottle stored in the police station, suffering severe burns. He was transfered to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) but died during treatment on Saturday.

”His family did not complain about it before, but now they have said they want a further investigation of the body,” Shiyam said.

”His parents do not wish to bury him yet,” he told Minivan News, adding ”there were no injuries found on the outside of his body, as he was very badly burned.”

Shiyam said Afsal’s body was now stored in the mortuary, allowing his parents to conduct a further investigation of the body.

Afsal’s brother, Ahmed Tholal, told Minivan News that he did not believe what police had said, or the hospital report.

”We know he was tortured because there are injuries on the outside his body,” Tholal said. ”Half an hour before he set himself on fire, people near the area claimed they heard him shouting and screaming for help.”

Tholal said that injuries on Afsal’s hands showed it appeared he had been handcuffed.

”We suspect that he was handcuffed, and a handcuffed man could not have taken a bottle of petrol and poured it over himself,” Tholal said. ”We will not allow him to be buried before we finish investigating his body.”

He said his family was deciding whether to bring burn experts from overseas, or to take Afsal’s body abroad to conduct a postmortem examination.

”Several days before this incident occurred police arrested him on other charges, and when he was released he came home and showed us bruises on his neck, claiming police tortured him,” Tholal said. ”He also claimed police officers had sprayed a whole bottle of pepper spray into his face.”

He said that today Police Assistant Commissioner Ali Rasheed and a group of police officials had met his family “and admitted that police were irresponsible during the incident.”

”Now the government has said they will help our family with everything to do with the case, even help us to take our brother’s body abroad,” he said. ”They said they will keep his body stored until we finish investigating.”

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that President had asked the PIC to investigate the case because of the accusations made by Afsal’s family members.

”I do not believe the torturing culture is there anymore in custody,” he said, ”there might be some people who have awful intentions,”

The PIC said it would not comment on the case as it was currently under investigation, while the Maldivian Detainee Network failed to comment at time of press.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said Afsal’s family met with Assistant Commissioner Ahmed Fayaz. This has been corrected to Assistant Commissioner Ali Rasheed.


President asks German scholars to help interpret Sharia law for the Maldives

President Nasheed has asked German scholars with expertise in Sharia law to help apply it to certain fields in the Maldives, during his visit to Berlin.

“I have done my homework and I am quite aware of the amount of German discourse in Islamic jurisprudence”, President Nasheed said, according to German news site deutschenachrichten.

Nasheed told the German press that Maldivian law was based on Sharia, but warned them about “jumping to the wrong conclusions.”

“We are a tolerant and free country, and we want to keep it that way,” he said.

Press S for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said that Germany was a country where a large number of experienced and professional scholars live.

”In the 20th century, the highest standard of Islamic universities was also in Germany,” Zuhair said.

Zuhair said the government had discussed the request for German assistance with the Islamic Ministry, which had expressed its approval.

However spokesperson for the Islamic Ministry Sheikh Ahmadullah said he had no information about the matter and did not want to comment.

Zuhair explained that “many Islamic books also were preserved in Germany” and believed that “German religious scholars would be more experienced than Maldivian scholars.”

”The origins of Sharia code would not be changed,” Zuhair said. ”They will only help in some areas like taxation.”

He said the president had received very positive answers in response to his interest.

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said if good advice was given “it should always be heard and acted upon.”

Shaheem said people should realise “that there are Islamic scholars all around the world, and not only in Arabic countries.”

“The are good scholars in many countries,” Shaheem said, “even in those where Islamic people are in a minority.”

”Even a scholar like Sheikh Bukhari (a famous scholar of the Hadiths) was not from an Arabic country,” Shaheem explained.

“If a scholar in another country can give the right information on Sharia law, we have to accept it. But if anyone gives the wrong information, we have scholars here who can tell us the right way to implement Sharia.”


Thirty coconut palms vandalised on Nadella

A group of people have cut down 30 coconut palm trees on the island of Nadella in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, the same area where President Mohamed Nasheed had promised to develop a football stadium.

Councilor of Nadella Abbas Ali told Minivan News that given that the price of one grown palm tree was Rf500 a sapling Rf100, the incident on Monday night represented a total loss Rf3500 to the community.

“Some of the people earn money by selling coconuts and items made from palm trees,” he said.

”In that area there are 430 palm trees belonging to 25 people. It is a very big loss for some people.”

”Apparently they had used electric or petrol saws.”

Abbas said the Island office informed about it to the police yesterday morning.

He said the islanders had disputed the development of a football stadium in the area because recently land was reclaimed to develop the stadium in another area.

He said the palm trees were growing 300 feet away from where people lived.

Mohamed Rasheed, a man who lost two palm trees in the incident, said the trees had belonged to his grandfather and he had been waiting for them to get old so he could use the logs.

”I also use the palm trees to get coconuts,” he said.

Head of Gaafu Dhaalu police station Ahmed Naseeh said the police yet to begin investigating the case.