Dhangethi rape victim suffering from “serious sexual trauma”: Police

A young Indian teacher who was raped on the island of Dhangethi in Alif Dhaal Atoll on February 11 has suffered serious sexual trauma, according to police.

Head of Serious and Organised Crime Department Mohamed Dawood told local media that the woman – who was allegedly raped at knife point – was being treated in the atoll hospital for injuries sustained in the attack.

According to local media, when police arrived at the scene the young woman was found slumped near her bed, which was covered in blood.

So far three men, including a Bangladeshi national, have been arrested by police in connection to the rape and assault of the teacher. Dawood told local media that it was believed the Bangladeshi man had committed the rape.

“We monitored all vessels leaving the island during the investigation. In that regard, we first took the two Maldivians into custody. But later we arrested the Bangladesh man living in the island as his behaviour was suspicious,” Dawood told local media.

A source close to the victim told Minivan News today that the woman has now been transferred to a hospital in India.

“She has still not recovered from the attack, I have been in contact with her, but now she is in India,” he added.

Following the attack the perpetrators stole her laptop computer, mobile phone and her previous month’s salary.

Police have since recovered the victim’s belongings, including the knife believed to have been used to threaten the woman, inside the home of the Bangladeshi national.

Minivan News was awaiting more information from Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef at time of press.

Speaking to Minivan News on February 11, a source said that the woman had been transferred to the Atoll hospital’s intensive care unit whilst “bleeding uncontrollably” following the attack.

Local media reported that the woman was teaching a private computer course on the island.

Island Council President Adam said the young woman had been working on the island for less than a month, and described her as a “very kind person who was very friendly towards the local islanders”.

Dhangethi is the third largest populated island of Alif Dhaal Atoll, with a population of around 1200 people.


Court released child sex abuse suspect to house arrest in victim’s home

The High Court this week rejected a request to place a male suspect accused of sexually abusing an 11-year old relation in custody. The suspect was previously held under house arrest at the same property where his alleged victim lived.

The Prosecutor General (PG’s) Office confirmed that following a remand hearing on Tuesday (February 5), the suspect had been released from the house arrest – with no restrictions currently placed upon his movement ahead of his unscheduled trial.

The remand hearing took place at a time when the PG’s Office is already facing government criticism for pursuing a case against a 15 year-old minor on charges of having “consensual sexual relations”.

The government, which has said it is in the process of reviewing and amending laws on sexual abuse with authorities including the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human rights and Islamic Ministry, today accused state prosecutors of showing “bad judgement” in charging the 15 year-old girl.

The two cases are the latest in a line of high profile sexual abuse trials concerning minors, which have met with international condemnation.

The 15 year-old presently facing charges of having “consensual sexual relations” has also been identified as the victim of child sex abuse in an unrelated criminal case also being pursued by authorities.

The PG’s Office confirmed this week that after reviewing the charges against the 15 year-old girl, a decision had been taken to proceed with her trial at the Juvenile Court over charges of fornication. The PG’s Office was unable to comment further.

However, a source familiar with the matter told Minivan News that the charges against the minor had to be pursued because the girl had confessed to having consensual sex.  The charges relate to an incident reported before her alleged sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, the PG’s Office confirmed to Minivan News that the High Court rejected a request on February 5 to retain a sexual abuse suspect – believed to be an uncle of the victim – after it emerged he had been kept under house arrest in the same property as the 11 year-old victim.

A source with knowledge of the case said that the court released the suspect after enquiring as to why police and state prosecutors had failed to raise concerns about the house arrest earlier.

With no date yet scheduled for the suspect’s trial, the outcome of the remand hearing has meant the suspect had no restrictions on his movement, according to the source.

Minivan News understands the victim has since been moved to a new location on a separate island.

Government legal review

With these two high profile sexual abuse cases ongoing in the courts, the Maldives government has maintained its commitment to reviewing related laws in the Maldives.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News today that certain laws in the country, which he has previously criticised as treating sexual abuse victims as perpetrators, would be amended following consultations with relevant government authorities.

“We will be holding a one day seminar with the Islamic Ministry either sometime next week or the week after,” Masood said.

The government last month announced its intention to review the laws within the space of a few weeks. However, Masood added that there were many “pressing issues” requiring its attention at the present time.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali and Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights,  Dr Mariyam Shakeela were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

“Bad judgement”

Despite its stated commitment to review laws concerning sexual abuse in the country, Masood added that the PG’s Office itself remained an independent entity that pursued cases without government involvement.

He added that prosecutors had shown “bad judgement” in pursuing the case involving the 15 year-old while other matters were still pending.

Highlighting what he perceived to be more pressing issues for the PG’s Office, Masood raised concerns against MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – both aligned with the opposition Maldvian Democratic Party (MDP) – over their alleged  refusal to provide a urine sample after they were arrested under suspicion of drinking alcohol in November 2012.

MPs Jabir – at the time an elected representative for the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) – and Hamid were arrested back in November along with eight others on the island of  island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll, on suspicion of drug and alcohol offences.

“[The PG’s Office] should be taking [to court] the issue of suspects refusing to give urine tests after being found at drunken parties,” Masood claimed.


Police commence investigation after 11 year-old child gives birth

An 11 year-old girl who on Thursday prematurely gave birth to a child is said to be in a stable condition, as police today confirmed investigations were now under way into the case.

The girl, who cannot be identified due to her age, gave birth to the child two months prematurely. The child died early morning on Friday (November 2), after being taken to Feydhoo regional hospital in Seenu Atoll for further treatment, local media has reported.

The Maldives Police Service confirmed investigations into the matter were taking place, but said further details could not be disclosed due to the age of the child and the risk she could be identified and face possible recrimination.

A police spokesperson was unable to confirm the nature of the investigation at present.

However, local newspaper Haveeru, citing what it called reliable sources, reported that the girl had allegedly been a frequent victim of sexual assault before becoming pregnant.

“She came here with her mother complaining of constipation and stomach pain. Doctors had examined her and given an injection. But when she started to complain of severe pain, upon further examination doctors found that she was pregnant. The girl admitted that she got pregnant after someone had sexually molested her,” Haveeru quoted a local health centre official as saying.

The Health Ministry has meanwhile forwarded further requests for information on the case to the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights, which is mandated to deal with the matter.

Gender Minister Dhiyana Saeed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Abuse statistics

Almost one in seven children of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused at some time in their lives, according to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors.

Rates of sexual abuse for girls are almost twice as high than for boys at 20 percent – one in five girls have been sexually abused – while the figure for boys was 11 percent. Girls are particularly at risk in the capital Male’, the report found.

In recent years, local authorities and NGOs have released a number of findings trying to detail the extent of child abuse and wider sexual assaults within society.

The state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s (IGMH’s) Family Protection Unit reported in 2010 that the centre was notified of 42 cases of rape between 2005-2010. Most of these cases were found to involve minors.

According to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, 13 rape cases were reported last year alone, the majority of which most were gang rapes or assaults involving minors.


Prominent blogger Hilath Rasheed in critical condition after stabbing

Prominent Maldivian blogger and journalist Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed is in a critical condition after he was stabbed in the neck near his house in Male’ on Monday evening.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that Rasheed was stabbed around 8:15pm and was undergoing emergency treatment in ADK hospital.

No arrests have been made, “however there is CCTV in the area and we are trying to get something on it,” Haneef stated.

Police had cordoned off the area around the blood-stained pavement at time of press. There was on Monday evening no indication as to the motivation of the attack.

An informed source at ADK hospital said Rasheed was bleeding but conscious when he was brought to the hospital, and that he was expected to remain in surgery until 2:30am.

“They slit his throat clean through the trachea, and missed a vital artery by millimetres,” the source said, around 11:30pm, giving Rasheed a “five percent chance …  It doesn’t look good.”

Early on Tuesday morning the source reported that Rasheed’s condition had stabilised: “He’ll be in intensive care for a couple of days. He’s breathing through a tube now.”

Sub-Inspector Haneef said a second individual was stabbed in the back at 11:00pm near Male’s garbage dump and had been taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in a critical condition. Local media reported that the victim was believed to be a Bangladeshi national.

Second attack

Rasheed, a once outspoken blogger against extremism and former editor of newspaper Haveeru, was previously attacked by a group of men on December 10, 2011 – Human Rights Day – while attending a protest calling for religious tolerance.

A group of men attacked the protesters with stones, and Rasheed was taken to IGMH with a fractured skull.

He was subsequently arrested by police for questioning over his involvement in the protest gathering, and jailed for over three weeks.

Amnesty International declared him a ‘prisoner of conscience’, and said it was “dismayed that instead of defending Ismail ‘Khilath’ Rasheed, who has peacefully exercised his right to freedom of the expression, the government of Maldives has detained him. Moreover, the government has taken no action to bring to justice those who attacked the ‘silent’ demonstrators, even though there is credible photographic evidence of the attack.”

The Foreign Ministry subsequently called for an investigation “by relevant authorities” into the attack on the protest.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned both the December 10 attack on Rasheed and his arrest, noting that he was not only one of the country’s leading free speech advocates, but one of the few Maldivians bloggers to write under his own name.

“The Maldivian constitution bans the promotion of any religion other than Islam but guarantees freedom of assembly and expression as long as it does not contravene Islam. Rasheed professes to be an adherent of Sufism, which emphasises the inner, spiritual dimension of Islam,” RSF stated at the time.

Censored blogger

Rasheed’s popular and controversial blog, www.hilath.com, was blocked in November 2011 by the Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The Ministry made the request on the grounds that the site contained anti-Islamic material, CAM confirmed at the time.

Hilath claimed he was being censored for expressing his version of Islam, and called for more freedom of interpretation within the faith.

“I call upon all concerned to amend the clause in the constitution which requires all Maldivians to be Sunni Muslims only,” his statement read. “‘Unto you your religion and unto me my religion,’ and ‘There is no compulsion in religion’,” he said, quoting Qur’an 109:6 and 2:256.

Hilath claimed at the time that the blocking of his website had a political edge: “If Sunni Muslims are the conservatives, then the Sufi Muslims are the liberals,” he told Minivan News. “I think this is a conservative attack on the site. They think if you’re not a Sunni, you’re an unbeliever.”

Following the blocking of his blog and his attack in December, Rasheed became less outspoken on the subject of religion and withdrew from the public spotlight.

On May 12 he tweeted his intention to stop blogging altogether, and stated that he had “repented and am now a Muslim. But a very tolerant one at that.”


Villingili assault victim on life support after gang attack causes serious head injury

A 25 year-old man who suffered severe head injuries in an assault by a gang in Villingili two days ago has been declared brain-dead and is currently on life support at Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that police had received a report that the man had died, however this was not confirmed by the hospital.

”We can’t confirm whether he is dead, we have not yet received any official document yet,” Shiyam said, adding that five men had been arrested in connection with the attack.

IGMH Spokesperson Zeenath Ali told Minivan News that the victim’s condition was critical and that no progress had been observed since he was admitted to IGMH.

”The attack caused a very serious head injury,” she said. ”He is currently in a coma and on life support.”

Several media outlets have identified the person as Ahmed Mirza from the island of Maalhendhoo in Noonu Atoll.

Mirza, who works in a shop in Male’, was attacked on Monday night and rendered unconscious by his attackers. He was attacked while he was sitting in a park in Villingili.

Police have suggested the attack involved a gang, while Minivan News has received unsubstantiated reports that the assault was prompted following comments made about a girl.

A family member of the victim told local newspaper Haveeru that doctors had lost hope that Mizra would survive.

“He’s still on life support, hospitalised in the ICU because of the family’s request”, she told the paper. ”It’s like he’s gone, only with a pulse.”


Accident victim dies of head injuries

One of the four victims in last week’s motorcycle accident at Gaafu Alifu Gemanafushi has died from his injuries.

Ali Ahthar was moved to IGMH last Friday after suffering a brain haemorrage when two motorcycles collided. IGMH said the 18-year old could not be flown overseas for further medical attention because his condition too unstable.