Education Minister cuts short Raa Atoll trip amid protests

Education Minister Dr Aishath Shiham cut short a trip to Raa Atoll amid opposition protests over terrorism charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

When Dr Shiham arrived in Raa Atoll Ungoofaaru Island on March 13, Nasheed’s supporters staged a protest at the jetty calling for the opposition leader’s release.

According to Haveeru, a clash occurred between ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) supporters and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters. Police dispersed the protesters.

The former president was sentenced to 13 years in jail at 23:15 pm that night over the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Dr Shiham spent the night in Ungoofaaru, but left to Malé the next day without visiting Hulhudhuffaru. Dhuvaafaru, Maakurathu and Rasmadhoo Islands.

The minister had visited ten islands to examine the education systems before her visit to Ungoofaaru.

The President of Hulhudhuffaru Island Council Aahir Hussain told Haveeru students and faculty were disappointed by Dr Shiham’s decision to cancel the trip.

“Students and parents stayed up late for weeks to prepare for the minister’s visit. So everyone is quite upset when she cancelled,” he said.


PPM MP sentenced to four years in exile for embezzlement

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ibrahim Ameen has been sentenced to four years and six months in exile for embezzlement.

The Criminal Court found the MP for Ungoofaaru constituency guilty of embezzling MVR36, 818 (US$2,388) from the Ungoofaru Island Council Office.

Ameen had been responsible for all incoming cash at the office from May 2004 – April 2006, but failed to explain how MVR36,818 went missing from cash handed over to the office by the island’s power house.

The embezzlement was discovered by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), but Ameen told the Criminal Court the commission’s audit was flawed. He had, however, confessed to receiving the amount.

The Criminal Court sentenced Ameen to internal exile under the Penal Code Article 131(a) and ordered him to pay the money back to the Island Office within a month.

Article 131(a) of the code states that any persons found guilty of embezzlement should be sentenced to six month or one year banishment if it was the first time the person was found guilty of such crime, and  Article 132 states that if the amount of money obtained through embezzlement was more than MVR10,000 (US$649) the person should be banished to an extra  month for each additional MVR1000 (US$69).

Ameen’s brother Abdul Nasir was also handed an eleven year sentence on 17 April 2014 for embezzling MVR114,325 (US$7,414) from the council. Nasir was also found guilty of embezzling fees paid to the council by the power house.

Nasir had confessed to using the funds for personal use, the Criminal Court said.

Ameen won a by-election after his brother MP Dr Afrasheem Ali’s brutal murder left the seat vacant. The PPM issued Ameen the ticket without a primary as he is the brother of the late MP.

Ameen did not contest for the 18th People’s Majlis.

He told local media that he had no interest in politics and that he had competed in the by-election in 2012 to complete his brother’s term.

“My brother’s family asked me if I will stand for the seat. Senior party members and friends also want me to stand for the seat. But I have no interest,” he said at the time.

The current Majlis is in recess ahead of the end of its term on May 28.

Article 73 of the constitution states that a person shall be disqualified from election as a member of the People’s Majlis – or a member of the People’s Majlis immediately becomes disqualified – if he has been convicted of a criminal offence and is serving a sentence of more than twelve months.

Additionally, the same article states that if a person has been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term more than 12 months he will not be able to stand for parliament,  unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release or he has been pardoned for the offense.

In August 2011, Kaashidhoo MP Ismail Abdul Hameed was sentenced to 18 months in exile for corruption. He subsequently lost his seat.

However, Hameed served ten months of his term under house arrest due to the state’s failure to decide on an island for his exile. He was released in August 2012 under parole.


Former council president sentenced to 11 years’ exile

The Criminal Court has sentence former Ungoofaaru Council President to 11 years, local media has reported.

Abdulla Nasir confessed to using the income from local power station for personal purposes, with Sun Online reporting the defrauded amount to total MVR114, 325 (US$7,414).

Nasir has been ordered to repay the figure within one month.


Main suspect in Dr Afrasheem’s murder case denies charges

Hussain Humam, a suspect arrested in connection to the murder of Ungoofaaru Constituency MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, today denied the charges against him during the first hearing of his case at the Criminal Court.

During today’s hearing, the state attorney read out the charges against Humam, who pleaded not guilty and requested the court to grant him the opportunity to appoint a lawyer for his defence.

Attorneys representing the state told the Criminal Court that on 1 October 2012, Humam and a group of people had attacked and murdered Dr Afrasheem Ali.

According to the local media, during the hearing the judge asked Humam how soon he could appoint a lawyer. Humam replied that he would have to speak to his family. He was given one week  by the presiding judge.

Ali Shan, of Hikost House in Henveiru, was also arrested as a suspect in the murder case. The police have now concluded the investigation and have sent the case to the Prosecutor General.

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has previously alleged that the murder of the MP for Ungoofaaru constituency was a well planned murder worth MVR 4 million (US$260,000).

In a presentation shown during a press conference last year, Riyaz claimed that 11 suspects were initially arrested, however three had now been released. He added that about 200 items had been analysed as evidence, including forensic and digital evidence, which he claimed were enough to prosecute the prime suspects.

“Over 500 hours of CCTV footage have been analysed, more than a hundred people have been interviewed and about 13,000 phone call recordings have been analysed out of which 12,000 were from one single tower,” Riyaz said.

The commissioner claimed Afrasheem was last seen alive inside the premises of the state broadcaster, Television Maldives (TVM). The presentation suggested that Afrasheem was seen leaving the premises in his car around 11:04pm, according to the nearby CCTV camera footage.

Afrasheem left the station after participating in a religious TV program called “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Life), with Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Qubad Aboobakuru.

In his last words, aired on the show, Afrasheem said that he was deeply saddened and asked for forgiveness from citizens if he had created a misconception in their minds due to his inability to express himself in the right manner.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed was quoted in local media as saying that the Islamic Ministry had not forced Afrasheem to offer a public apology for anything during his last television appearance and disputed that there was any religious motivation in the death of the moderate scholar.


Record high convictions of child sex offenders in Ugoofaaru court

The magistrate court on the Ungoofaaru island of Raa atoll has sentenced a  man to 15 years imprisonment for sexually abusing his step daughter.

He was also found guilty of possession of pornographic images and sentenced to additional four months in jail.

The man was arrested from Maduvaree island and charged under the Use of Special Procedures in Dealing with Child Abusers Act which stipulates strict punishments for persons found guilty of sexually abusing children.

Ungoofaru magistrate court has a notable record in convicting child sex offenders from Raa Atoll, which has a population of nearly 20,000 on 16 different inhabited islands.

In a press statement released Monday,  the Maldives Police Service noted that last year Ugoofaaru court had convicted eight people in relation to 10 different child abuse cases.

In February 2011, the court sentenced a man from the island of Kinolhas to 10 years in prison for abusing a 12 year-old disabled girl, and another man from Ugoofaaru was sentenced in April to 10 years imprisonment for sexually abusing a 17 year old girl.

A man from Rasmaadhoo was found guilty of sexually abusing his step daughters aged 12 and 14 for several years. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail while in a similar case a man from Alifushi was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sexually abusing his 17  year old daughter on multiple occasions.

Ungoofaaru court had also sentenced a man from capital Male’  to 20 years imprisonment after he was  found guilty of threatening his 15 year old daughter with a knife and sexually abusing her. His wife from Maakurathu was meanwhile sentenced to six months in jail for hiding her husband’s crime, while another man who had given strong medicine to the 15 year old girl was fined up Rf 200 (US$13).

In October, the court sentenced a man from Kandolhudhoo island for sexually abusing a 13 year old boy and later had that month also sentenced a man from Inamaadhoo island for sexually abuing an 11 year old girl.

The police observed that all cases were investigated by the Ungoofaaru police station in partnership with the Family and Children Centre on the island.

According to the Gender Department, a total of between December 2010 and October 2011, 1,138 cases of child abuse were reported to from atoll family and children service centres. A total of 1,005 cases involved minors while 133 cases involved victims aged 18 and above.

Approximately a third of the 81 cases involving children less than one year-old involved neglect. Sexual abuse was reported in a quarter of the 192 cases for age group one to five, and in a fifth of the 230 cases age group five to ten.