Failure to prosecute serious crimes tantamount to “state-sponsored terrorism,” says Nasheed

The government’s failure to investigate and prosecute serious crimes is tantamount to “deliberate state-sponsored terrorism,” contends former President Mohamed Nasheed.

In a statement issued yesterday on the occasion of International Human Rights Day (December 10), the opposition leader accused senior government officials and elements of the police of complicity in abductions, murder, arson attacks, and gang violence.

“I note that the government has not investigated such incidents that have occurred throughout the year and serious criminals are on the loose. The state has not pressed charges against them,” the statement read.

Nasheed argued that the government’s inaction has caused harm and undermined fundamental rights, calling on the public to “find courage from each other for justice and stand up against inhumane torture.”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was formed to change the old system of governance and bring an end to ill-treatment and torture inflicted on citizens by the state, the statement observed.

“Custodial abuse was stopped under the MDP’s first government. Maldivians began to find hope and courage,” it continued.

“[But] the flame of hope is again flickering out.”

At a rally held last month to celebrate the current administration’s first year in office, President Abdulla Yameen pledged to crack down on violent crime and implement the death penalty.

“We have peace and order in Malé and all regions of Maldives. We have peace. However, this is not to say that isolated and significant dangerous crimes do not occur,” he said.

Unresolved cases

Nasheed’s statement went on to list serious crimes that have occurred in 2014, stressing that the perpetrators have not been brought to justice in the majority of the cases, including the stabbing of former MDP MP Alhan Fahmy on February 2.

An expatriate lorry driver was stabbed and robbed of cash and a mobile phone on January 25, the statement continued, while two days later, three men were stabbed in separate incidents in the capital Malé.

On February 3, a minor was assaulted with a wooden plank near the Adi Park in the Henveiru ward of the capital and sustained head injuries.

While suspects were taken into custody in some of the cases, Nasheed noted that none of the arrests led to criminal prosecution.

On April 12, former Gender Minister Dr Amaal Ali was robbed at knifepoint at her residence.

“On April 4, 2014, a 79-year-old was stabbed in Gaaf Dhaalu Thinadhoo,” the statement continued. “On May 18, 2014, Mohamed Naeem, of Baa Hithaadhoo Thiraa, was stabbed and injured in an assault inside a guesthouse in Malé.”

On July 31, a 35-year-old man was stabbed to death on the island of Thulusdhoo in Kaafu atoll and the suspect voluntarily submitted to police.

Two days later, two young men were stabbed in Malé, resulting in the death of 18-year-old Mohamed Mazin while undergoing treatment for stab wounds.

In the previous week, four men and a woman were assaulted in separate incidents. While one man was mugged in the Maafanu ward, two men were stabbed in Hulhumalé, a woman was stabbed in the back in the Galolhu ward, and a fourth victim was stabbed in the Henveiru ward.

On August 23, two men and a minor were assaulted and stabbed by masked men on motorcycles in the Dhidhi Goalhi in front of Iskandhar School in Malé.

One of the victims, Ahmed Aseel, 19, later died as a result of injuries sustained in the assault.

Police intelligence suggests that the spate of violent assaults in Malé since the beginning of Eid Holidays were gang reprisals “caused by a disturbance between two groups,” Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh told the press at the time.

More recently, a man was injured in a violent assault on October 3, a group of girls were attacked with a chain in Raa Madduvari on October 9, and a young man was stabbed near the police tow yard in Malé on October 26.

During the past month, two men were stabbed in a café in Malé on November 2 and a young man was assaulted with an iron rod in the Galolhu ward of Malé on November 16.

Earlier in the day, an 18-year-old man was arrested after entering the Bilabong International High School with a machete during a gang fight.

On December 7, a 28-year-old man was stabbed to death in Malé near the People’s Majlis building.

Nasheed also referred to the suspected abduction of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan 125 days ago, accusing the government of both negligence in investigating the disappearance and covering up the abduction.

Moreover, in June, a vigilante mob abducted several young men in a push to identify online activists advocating secularism or professing atheism.

Nasheed noted that police did not investigate the incidents despite media reports.

“During the past year, press freedom and freedom of expression have declined. Intimidation of journalists and youth active on social media have become commonplace. The government has obstructed peaceful political activity,” the statement read.

In October, Amnesty International called on the government to “intensify efforts” to find those responsible for death threats, abductions, and violent attacks against journalists, politicians, and civil society activists.

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Police to dismantle huts in Malé to curb gang violence

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has decided to dismantle huts in public spaces in Malé used exclusively by gangs in the capital.

Police said that huts and other sheltered areas in Malé used as makeshift dens by gangs “facilitate the assaults happening in Malé as well as the drug trade”.

Police have decided to clear out the huts and “bring an end to the areas being used to plan criminal offences,” it was revealed in a statement, which also noted that violent assaults in the past week have occurred in such areas used exclusively by gangs that were off-limits to the public.

Earlier this week, police launched “special efforts” to curb gang violence following a spate of violent assaults since July 28 that left an 18-year-old stabbing victim dead.

As part of the efforts, police have been confiscating weapons and drugs from parks and other open spaces in the capital, Chief Inspector Ismail Naveen told the press on Sunday (August 3).

Areas where weapons have been found included the Henveiru Park – the scene of three violent assaults last week – as well as the park on Alikilegefaanu Magu and the open space near the State Trading Organisation’s head office in Maafanu.

According to police media, discussions initiated by police took place today with the Malé City Council, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Both ministries and the city council assured cooperation with police efforts to clear out the huts and open the public spaces for sports and use by the general public.

The authorities informed police that the huts were not built with permission, police noted, adding that some areas were being used for business enterprises.

Moreover, police have found that sports facilities have been set up in areas which were being leased or used exclusively by certain groups.

The ministries and city council agreed that public spaces should be open for use by “any youth and people of all ages,” police said.

In May, police dismantled similar huts and hangouts in the suburb Vilimalé following reports of criminal activity, including drug use and gang violence.

Malé City Councillor Shamau Shareef told Minivan News at the time that the council had asked police to clear out “all such hangouts around Malé instead of just that one place in Villimalé.”

The move drew criticism from Villimalé MP Ahmed Nihan – parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives – who told Minivan News that destroying the huts without providing alternatives would only create more social problems.

The Malé City Council meanwhile passed a resolution on Tuesday (August 5) calling on law enforcement authorities to redouble efforts to combat gang violence in the capital, which has created an atmosphere of “fear and panic”.

Speaking at press conference yesterday, Mayor Mohamed Shihab stressed the need for long-term measures to ensure security in the capital, noting that unemployment and lack of entertainment and sports facilities for youth were factors that contributed to gang activities.

“One of the biggest problems faced by citizens of Malé is the lack of housing,” he said, adding that youth often lacked space in their homes to “hang out with friends.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a scholarship awarding ceremony of the Trans-Maldivian Airways’ youth pilot training programme last night, President Abdulla Yameen said it was “about time that youth come to their senses with what they are doing.”

“Maldives is not a country that is infested with stabbing, Maldives is not a country that is infested with these kinds of juvenile delinquencies or crime. These are isolated incidents,” he said.

“Whatever foreign media writes about Maldives, what can clearly be said about Maldives today is that after all the political difficulties we have had in the past, and thanks to some of the foreign interventions in these – that certainly did not make our lives easier –  but that is a story of the past.”

“Today we have a strong government, we have the support of the public and we also have a strong support in the parliament.”


Five suspects arrested in connection with gang violence

Police arrested four suspects with drugs and weapons from a residence in the Maafanu ward of the capital Malé last night.

According to police media, police searched Maafanu Badufangige with a search warrant at around 11:00pm and took four men into custody after discovering weapons, four balaclavas, and a packet containing illicit narcotics.

A fifth male suspect was also arrested last night with weapons and drugs after searching a residence in Malé.

The suspect was taken into custody from Maafanu Azma after obtaining a search and arrest warrant.

As part of efforts to curb gang violence, police have also been questioning and frisking individuals “loitering on the streets with no purpose” both after midnight and during the day.


Police launch search for stabbing suspect

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has launched a search for an 18 year-old suspect allegedly involved in the stabbing of a 21 year-old man yesterday, reports local media.

The victim was stabbed with a sharp object at approximately 10:30pm Wednesday (August 21) on Maaveyo Goalhi (alley) in Male’. He suffered two stab wounds near the right shoulder, according to the MPS.

The victim is currently undergoing treatment at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’.

Meanwhile , the MPS Serious and Organised Crime Department is investigating the case, and searching for 18-year-old Shifan Zufrath from Rozendale house in Male’s Henveiru ward.

Police have requested members of the public with information about Zufrath contact either the MPS hotline at 332-2111 or the MPS Fraud and Financial Crime Department at 991-1099.

The MPS said those who provide information to police about the suspect will be given due protection, according to local media.


Police form gang task force, arrest three men for involvement in stabbing

Three men have been arrested for their alleged involvement in last Friday’s stabbing incident – the first in a succession of violent crimes in Male’ over several days –  prompting police to form a special task force for combating gang violence.

Police arrested Mohamed Kinaanath Ahmed, 28 years-old, of Lobby house in Male’s Henveiru neighborhood, Ahmed Shirhan Shameem, 21 years-old, from Kolhufushi Island in Meemu Atoll, and Assad Ibrahim Rasheed, 18, of Male’ Dhaftharu 7644, on “suspicion of stabbing Mohamed Shaifan” on Friday (May 17).

Kinaanath was previously released from jail under the ‘second chance’ program and is the older brother of Hussain Humaam. Humaam is currently being tried in the Criminal Court for his alleged connection to the murder of Ungoofaaru Constituency MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Shaifan was the first victim in a series of four stabbing incidents that occurred in Male’ over a 48 hour period, resulting in a total of five people injured as police continue to search for suspects.

The three suspects to have been arrested, as well as the five stabbing victims, all have police records “tying them” to theft, assault, and narcotics cases, a police spokesperson told Minivan News today (May 21).

Police have identified several additional suspects linked to the series of stabbings and are currently searching for the individuals, the official added.

“Gangs will be stopped”

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz told local media that gang reprisals are believed to be behind the recent series of stabbing attacks.

“Gangs will be stopped. We will do whatever it takes to bring the gangs to justice. The police will not back down in their efforts,” said Commissioner Riyaz.

The Police Services announced Monday (May 20) that a special task force has been created, under the Specialist Crime Command, to combat gang activity in the Maldives.

“The task force will address various activities, criminal or otherwise, carried out by groups of individuals who identify themselves as gangs. Additionally, it aims to take every action possible to curb gang activity to an extent that ensures safety and peace in the community.”

To fulfill its mandate, the special task force will monitor gang activity, investigate any unlawful actions carried out therein, attempt to hasten prosecution on such matters.

The now-active task force consists of members from the Forensics Directorate, Intelligence and Covert Policing Command, Information and Communication Directorate, Central Operations Command and Technical Police from the Divisional Operations Command of the Maldives Police Service.

“We have made great strides into the investigation of the recent violence. But we need a lot of assistance from the public to catch these perpetrators. So it is our sincere request for people to come forward with photographs or videos of the crimes,” Commissioner Riyaz added.

Dynamic local gangs

“The recent series of stabbings are quite worrying because there has been an absence of violent crime like this for some time,” former head of police intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed ‘MC’ Hameed told Minivan News today.

“Now that we’ve seen five stabbing victims of violent crime, we might see one or two more incidents,” said Hameed.

“There are many locally known crime gangs of varying size and capacity. The way local crime gangs operate is quite dynamic,” he continued. “They individually carry out crimes in accordance with ‘others’ orders, instructions, and payments.”

“Gang rivalries have existed for a long time, it’s an everyday thing. The fact that these recent stabbings occurred during the daytime is not new [practice],” he added.

Hameed explained that previously, the police would know that a particular stabbing was carried out by a certain group, even if evidence was lacking, and the persons involved would be identified between 24 to 72 hours after an incident occurred.

Regarding the recent stabbings, Hameed said the incidents are probably retaliatory and inter-related based on what local media has reported. He also alleged that the three men that have been arrested are part of a gang based in Male’.

“I don’t understand the link between these three and Shaifan, but it’s quite possible,” he said.

“No effective policing approach”

“It’s also very worrying thing that policing, in Male’ especially, is not sustained well. There is not a clear approach to reduce and deal with violent crimes and criminals,” stated Hameed.

“Not being able to police Male’ – the most populated city in the country – due to the lack of an effective strategy and the disconnect between the key areas of criminal investigations, intelligence gathering, and front line policing is a big issue,” he added.

In addition to the lack of a “very effective policing approach” to combat violent crime, low level crimes have not been addressed, according to Hameed.

“A lot of antisocial behavior goes unnoticed and unaddressed by the police, such as harassment and public nuisance. For example, girls of a very young age are harassed, even while walking with their families. Additionally, juveniles are seen under the influence of drugs and intoxicated in public,” he explained.

Hameed advocated that a strong, more integrated, holistic approach is needed that applies a broader strategy to effectively reduce crime.

“Increasing police officers physical presence, as well as effective targeting of high profile offenders and hotspots needs to be addressed,” Hameed said.

“Collaboration between criminal investigations, intelligence gathering, and front line policing are three areas that have never worked that effectively,” he added.

These departments lack a common understanding of one another as well as streamlined “organisational engineering”, and are reluctant to collaborate, according to Hameed.

“To be more effective, key personnel from these departments must come together regularly, at the start of duty shifts, once daily, and weekly, to target, prioritise, and discuss arrangements to ensure a safe environment [for the public],” he suggested.

During former Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh’s time a gang task force was established, while former Police Deputy Commissioner Mohamed Rishwan developed a severe and organised crime strategy to proactively combat these issues, Hameed explained.

“We had a dedicated team, work space, facilities, and arrangements focused on gang criminals to reduce and prevent such violent crimes,” said Hameed.

“It was a more proactive approach, and we saw some success, but was not sustained [by the current government],” he continued.

“There are approximately 16 locations we identified as high risk hotspots [for gang activity] but those areas might have increased in the last year. If police regularly attend these locations, we might not see violent crimes,” he added.

While Hameed believes targeting high profile criminals is an effective strategy, he “can understand the police cannot always focus on these offenders given the current government situation involving protesters and the police getting called for ‘public order policing’,” he said.

“With the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming elections, police need to stick to their basic mission of keeping the peace. They need a very clear mandate, because it is also their duty to make sure violent crimes don’t affect the election environment making it unsafe to be out on the streets,” Hameed emphasised.

“After this government’s formation in 2012, the President’s Office came up with a crime prevention committee, which included all law enforcement [agencies] and [relevant] ministries, however we have yet to see results,” claims Hameed.

Four attacks and five victims in 48 hours

Shaifan was stabbed near Star Cinema in Male’s Maafanu neighbourhood, which was reported to police around 6:30pm Friday (May 17).

Police have confirmed that the attackers arrived on motorcycles and attacked Shaifan “in the company of others”. The 20 year-old victim suffered “deep injuries” about three inches wide and two inches deep in two locations on his back, near his lungs and backbone, according to police. Shifan underwent surgery and is still receiving medical treatment at an unspecified hospital, according to police.

The Criminal Court recently acquitted Shaifan, and five other suspects, for the stabbing murder of Ali Shifan that occurred on April 1, 2012, outside the Westpark restaurant on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, the outer ring road of Male’. The court acknowledged that Ali Shifan’s DNA was found under Shaifan’s fingernail, and accepted that this was “strong forensic evidence”, however ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict.

The second attack, which also took place Friday, occurred near Machangolhi Cemetery in Male’s Machangolhi neighbourhood and was reported to police around 7:00pm. The victim, Hussain Ziyad, 19 years-old, from Hithadhoo Island in Seenu Atoll, suffered two stab wounds to the shoulder and one in the back, but has since been released from the hospital.

Police have revealed that their investigation has indicated the attack was premeditated.

On Saturday (May 18), two young men, 18 year-old Naseeb Saeed from Feydhoo Island in Seenu Atoll and 21 year-old Mohamed Azhan Ismail from Male’s Maafanu neighborhood, were stabbed near Azmi-Naeem Medical & Diagnostic Centre (AMDC) in Maafanu at approximately 3:30pm, a police media official told Minivan News at the time.

A group of people on motorcycles attacked the pair with a “sharp object”, stabbing Saeed five times causing injuries to his abdomen, shoulder near his chest, and back, while Ismail suffered two “deep lacerations” to the back.

Both victims remain in serious condition at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), Deputy Head Chief Superintendent of Police Mohammed Riyaz of the Specialist Crime Command told local media Riyaz. No arrests have been made at this time, however police have identified two suspects during the course of their investigation.

The fourth stabbing incident occurred Sunday (May 19) in Male’s Maafanu neighborhood at approximately 6:20pm.

The victim, 19 year-old Usman Shareef from Male’s Maafanu neighborhood, fled into an electronics store, where he tried to shelter from his attackers. However, an eyewitness told local media that although the victim ran into the shop and hid behind the counter, the group followed him into the shop, stabbed him in two places, and then fled the scene.

The victim was taken to ADK Hospital via motorcycle by the store’s employees. He is currently being treated for neck and arm injuries.

Riyaz stated that police have found evidence linking some suspected individuals to the case and are investigating further.


Police arrest two suspects in connection to murder of 21 year-old man

Police have arrested two suspects, including a minor in connection to the murder of a 21 year-old man who was stabbed on Saturday night.

The victim, identified as Abdul Muheeth of G. Veyru, died while being treated at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) after he was stabbed in a series of attacks on Saturday night that left three others injured.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam today said that the two suspects were arrested on Monday night and the police are continuing to investigate the attacks.

Shiyam said that the suspect’s identities or their criminal records cannot be revealed at this time as the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, he observed that the motive for Saturday night’s attacks will be determined as the investigation progress.

Shiyam had earlier said that it was too early for police to determine if Saturday night’s stabbings were gang related, or connected to the ongoing political turmoil in the country.

A spate of stabbings in early 2011 that resulted in the deaths of several young men was blamed by police on gang related activity. Following a police crackdown, relatively few violent attacks were reported for the remainder of the year.

Meanwhile, this is the second murder reported this year. The first was a 76 year-old man who was found murdered with multiple stab wounds on Kudahuvadhoo island in Dhaalu Atoll on Janurary 8.