Masked men break into school to cut down cursed ‘Jinn tree’

Last night group of masked men broke into Thakandhoo School in Haa Alif atoll after threatening the security guard with a knife in order to cut down what they claimed was a ‘Jinn Tree’ with evil spirits.

Thakandhoo Island Council Vice President Ibrahim Saeed said the incident happened around 3am this morning.

“Three masked men jumped over the school wall last night and one of them threatened the security guard with a knife. And while he held the security guard, the other two went in with a hand saw and cut down the tree,” he said.

The Maldives Police Service confirmed that the incident is currently under investigation and that a police team from Ihavandhoo arrived on the island within an hour of the incident.

Local media outlet CNM has reported that the tree is approximately 13 years old and was planted by the school staff.

“It was a beautiful tree planted to give a good look to the school compound. Sometimes students try to climb it, and last year three students were possessed by Jinns,” CNM was told by the school staff member.

“People say it is because of that tree, so we even brought five people to look into the matter. But even they didn’t recommend to cut down the tree.”

CNM also quoted the staff member as saying that the Jinns [of the tree] had already “stabilised” when it was cut down last night.

Fanditha politics

Speaking to Minivan News, a local who supported the cutting down of the tree said that many believed the tree was connected to the jinn possession of children last year.

“Thing went really bad last December,” explained the local man. “Many of those children have recovered now but there is a child who is still possessed. And there is young girl who loses consciousness whenever she walks past by this tree.”

“Even when things are like this, the island is so politically divided that these issues are politicised and an agreement is not reached as to how it should be dealt with.”

He said the rivalry between two group of islanders dates back to the pre-democracy era and that issues have further polarised with party politics.

“Fanditha practice is very common here. The island is divided into two rival groups even before party politics.”

“But now it [the divide] is [politically] colored, and represented by supporters of PPM [ruling Progressive Party of Maldives] aligned with the former island chief’s family and friends, and those supporting MDP [opposition Maldivian Democratic Party]. There are magicians on both sides,” he explained.

Last September a group of ‘Islamic exorcists’ uncovered ‘hexed clay tablets’ buried near the school compound following a series of ‘jinn possession’ incidents. A police team went to the island with a court warrant and searched all the houses for black magicians and traditional fanditha magic related objects.

The incident, which took place as the whole country was preparing for the second (cancelled) round of presidential election, left the island community in shock and fear.

MDP supporters from the island claimed it was a political plot to frame their members for practicing black magic as reports of black magic emerged across the country during the 2013 election period.

Practice of black magic is a criminal offense under Shariah Law, which it is punishable by death – a sentence still handed down for the offence in countries like Saudi Arabia.

In 1953 local black magician Hakim Didi was sentenced to death in the Maldives for practicing magic which eventually lead to the murder of an atoll chief by poisoning and use of black magic in a plot to kill President Mohamed Ameen Didi.

Along with a group of magicians and other co-conspirators, Hakeem Didi is said to have confessed to carrying out many disturbing black magic practices. These include the brewing of a magic poisonous fish potion, the extraction of liver oil from corpses of children, and eating them along with flour dough effigies of the president.

Didi was executed by a firing squad, after which there has been an unofficial moratorium on death penalty in the Maldives.

The permitted forms of white fanditha magic are also regulated by the government and can be legally practiced only with a written permission from the Ministry of Health according to the Traditional Medicine, Fanditha (Magic), Circumcision and Midwifery Services Act of 1978.

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Uncertainty over 2011 case of British couple killed in resort quad bike accident

The Criminal Court has said it still requires statements from the parents of a British couple killed in a quad bike accident at Kuredu Island Resort in 2011.

Swedish national Filip Eugen Petre, a son of a shareholder in Kuredu Island Resort, is currently facing trial for his alleged role in crashing a quad bike carrying British nationals Emma and Jonathon Grey at Kuredu on August 6, 2011.

The case is at a stand still as the court awaits responses from the parents of the deceased, regarding the preferred form of punishment for the accused.

However, both police in the UK and the respective families of the deceased have both insisted that the families decision has been submitted and then re-submitted to the court.

Earlier today, Director of the Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Maajid, contacted the Criminal Court media official on behalf of Minivan News for more information on the case.

“The Criminal Court media official, Mr Manik, told me that the trial hearings are now over. However, the court is currently awaiting statements from all of the family members regarding the preferred form of punishment for the accused. Only then will there be a final verdict,” Maajid claimed.

In October, 2012, Maajid told Minivan News that the court was awaiting a response from only of the victim’s family in regard to the accused’s punishment.

“A Criminal Court media officer tells me that what remains in the case is to obtain the word of the family of one of the victims, as to whether they want a sentence of execution, or blood money or to forgive,” Maajid told Minivan News back in October.

Minivan News attempted to contact the Criminal Court media official today, but he was not responding to calls or text messages throughout the day.

Maajid, when asked to clarify the information in relation to the previous comments made by courts, said that the official from the Criminal Court had later found more information regarding the case.

“Criminal Court has said they have a statement from the mother of the deceased man. But they have not received one from the father of the man, or either of the parents of the deceased woman,” Maajid claimed.

Under Islamic law, the family of the victim is given the option to sentence the accused to execution, blood money or to forgive them.

A relation to the deceased told Minivan News today that their statements had been submitted multiple times on different occasions to the courts.

According to the relation, the last the family had been told by the court was that the final verdict of the charge would be delivered at the next scheduled hearing.

“On the last hearing, which was held on February 27, closing arguments were given by the state and the defense. The judge has stated that the final verdict of the charge would be delivered at the next scheduled hearing.

“Furthermore, in the same hearing the court indicated that, they would contact the families of the deceased if they find there is a need to do so,” the relative said the family had been told.

UK police re-submit family requests

In October 2012, UK police were made to resubmit requests from the relatives regarding the punishment.

A relation of the Grays confirmed to Minivan News in October 2012 that neither victim’s family had received any official notification from the Maldivian courts themselves.

The UK police however, through a family liaison officer, confirmed that their Maldivian counterparts were informed “months ago” of the families’ preferred sentence.

“The police have said that they are going to re-submit the issue to the Maldives police today,” claimed the relation.

“That’s what is holding up the case right now, [the police] do not seem to have forwarded this information to the courts.”

The relative added that while they did wish to see some form of punitive sentence for the driver if he was convicted, they did not want any severe or long-term action to be taken against the defendant.

“He’s just a young guy. We don’t want to see his life ruined,” the relative said.

Jonathan Grey’s mother Cath Davies told UK-based newspaper the Halifax Courier in March 2012 that the prospect of Petre facing the death penalty was “shocking. It’s absolutely horrendous.”

Previous hearings

In previous hearings, the prosecution claimed that the charge of ‘disobedience to order’ Petre stands accused of resulted from his decision to carry people on a vehicle which was not intended for passengers.

The prosecution contended that his criminal action began from the moment he allowed the couple to ride with him on the vehicle.

Presiding Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf declared in court during earlier hearings that Petre’s lawyer had himself confessed during the trial that his client had driven the quad bike carrying Emma and Jonathan Gray as it crashed on the tourist property.

As a result of this confession, the judge said the state did not have to produce any evidence to prove Petre was the driver of the vehicle during the collision.

Representing the prosecution, State Attorney Aishath Fazna also contended that because Petre had “confessed” to driving the quad bike, she did not believe the state had to produce evidence to support this assumption.

However, Petre’s lawyer Areef Ahmed responded at the time that his client had not directly confessed to driving the quad bike and argued that his client continued to deny the charges against him.

Areef additionally claimed that the judge could not declare a verdict regarding the alleged confession said to have been during the previous hearing.

Areef contended that his confession could be withdrawn before the case reached to a conclusion, but the state attorney argued that after confessing in the trial, there was no way it can be withdrawn.

Petre’s lawyer has also contended that his client could not be charged under Islamic Sharia because his client is non-Muslim.

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