Masked men enter Maradhoo home, assault family

Masked men forcibly entered a home in the Maradhoo ward of Addu City around 7:30am this morning and assaulted a father and son, reports local media.

The 47-year-old man and his 17-year-old son were taken to the Hithadhoo regional hospital for treatment of injuries.

The masked men also damaged property and electronic equipment at the ‘Aanika’ residence. According to online news outlet CNM, a two-year-old girl was also injured in the attack and sustained a head wound.

The incident follows the arrest of a 23-year-old from Maradhoo yesterday on suspicion of attacking a 34-year-old with a machete the previous night (November 21).

Police said he was arrested with a court order from his home in Maradhoo.

The suspect in custody has a criminal record for drug abuse, violent assault, theft, and assaulting a police officer on duty, police said.

While sources from Maradhoo suggested to local media that this morning’s incident was related to Friday night’s stabbing, police have not confirmed any connection.

Following a spate of stabbings this year, the government has proposed the strengthening of  laws prohibiting the carrying of sharp weapons, including restricting the constitutional rights to remain silent and retain legal counsel.


MPs debate restricting constitutional rights after arrest

The People’s Majlis yesterday accepted legislation that proposes restricting the constitutional rights to remain silent and retain legal counsel for suspects arrested for violent assault.

Presenting the amendments (Dhivehi) to a 2010 law banning “threats and carrying dangerous weapons and sharp objects” on behalf of the government, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ibrahim Didi said “special measures” were needed to curb increasing violent assaults, to ease the public’s fear and anxiety, and to establish public order and safety.

Opposition MPs contend that the changes are unconstitutional, suggesting that the government was blaming a lack of legislation for its failure to curb violent crime.

The amendments state that suspects arrested for assault with sharp objects or dangerous weapons could not exercise the right to remain silent “to any extent”.

Police could also question the suspect if he or she is either unable to have an attorney present within six hours or waives the right to retain legal counsel.

Moreover, the suspect could only consult a lawyer in the presence of a police officer for the first 96 hours after the arrest.

The legislation states that the rights of the accused would be narrowed in reference to Article 16(a) of the Constitution, which states that the rights and freedoms contained in chapter two could be limited by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis “only if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

While Article 49 of the Constitution states, “No person shall be detained in custody prior to sentencing, unless the danger of the accused absconding or not appearing at trial, the protection of the public, or potential interference with witnesses or evidence dictate otherwise,” the amendments state that the court must consider the criminal record of the accused, police intelligence reports, and other information submitted by police.

Additionally, the legislation stipulates that the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office must press charges within 15 days of the arrest and the court must conclude the trial and deliver a verdict within 30 days of the case being filed.

In determining guilt, the court shall consider as evidence confessions or statements given at court, audio or video recordings of statements made by the accused to his or her lawyer, autopsy reports, and forensic evidence.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil revealed the government’s intention to narrow the constitutional rights at a press conference in October after a spate of violent assaults in the capital – which police said was a series of gang reprisals – saw three young men stabbed to death.

Speaking at a party rally earlier this week, PPM Parliamentary Group leader Ahmed Nihan reportedly said that the government would not stand to see young people labelled as gangsters.

Several incidents of gang violence have meanwhile occurred in recent weeks. Earlier this week, an 18-year-old was arrested after entering Billabong International High School with a machete during a gang fight.

Anil noted that the proposed amendments would specify harsher penalties for violent assault as the penalties in the current penal code were “far too lenient.”

The amendments propose the death penalty for premeditated murder in a violent assault using a dangerous weapon or sharp object as well as jail terms of up to 20 years for other offences specified in the law.

Following preliminary debate at yesterday’s sitting, the amendment bill was accepted with 66 votes in favour and five against and sent to the national security committee for further review.

“Incompetence and corruption”

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy – who voted against the amendments – told Minivan News that the obstacle to securing convictions for violent crimes was “incompetency and corruption within the criminal justice system.”

“When the government completely failed in tackling crimes that have gone out of hand they now blame it on legislation,” he contended.

“And true to their old style, the accused are to be beaten into confessing.”

Prior to the adoption of the new constitution in August 2008, the vast majority of convictions were based on confessions extracted during police interrogation and the police were often accused of torture and coercion.

During the parliamentary debate, PPM MP Ibrahim Didi said some cases were stalled at court for up to six years while the amendments would expedite the process and prevent the accused intimidating witnesses.

Several MPs objected to suspects being able to remain silent after committing serious crimes and insisted that violent crimes could be reduced if the bill is passed into law.

PPM Ahmed Thoriq suggested some rights guaranteed in the constitutional were unsuited to the Maldives.

Jumhooree Party Ali Hussain, however, contended that while fundamental rights and freedoms could be narrowed, completely depriving individuals of the right was unconstitutional.

PPM MP Mohamed Nasheed argued that preventing suspects from consulting a lawyer in private for four days was excessive and advised reducing the period to 36 hours.

Related to this story

AG seeks to strengthen prohibitions on carrying of sharp weapons

Five injured in spate of street violence in Malé

Gang assault with machete in Billabong high school


Six arrested in connection with assault

Police arrested six men in connection with a violent assault in the artificial beach area of Malé around 2:50pm yesterday (October 3).

The six suspects in custody include two men who sustained injuries in the assault, police said, who were arrested following treatment at the ADK hospital.

Eyewitnesses told local media that the assault occurred when a man wearing a mask and carrying a machete knife entered the Dine-more restaurant.

Shortly thereafter, he was chased out by four men, who followed him into the Shawarma cafe on Majeedheemagu. Equipment and property at the cafe were damaged in the altercation.

Police said the suspects were arrested from the scene of the crime.

While two stabbing incidents occurred last week, a spate of violent assaults in the capital in August – which police said was a series of gang reprisals – saw two young men stabbed to death.


Man sustains head injury in assault

A 25-year-old man was assaulted in Malé around 2:45pm yesterday near the Islamic College in the Henveiru ward of the capital.

According to police, the victim was rushed to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital for treatment of head injuries and has since been released.

No arrests have yet been made in connection with the assault, police said.

In August, a spate of violent assaults in the capital – which police said was a series of gang reprisals – saw two young men stabbed to death.


Stabbing victim dies in hospital as police make 12 arrests

An 18-year-old victim of a violent assault in Malé died last night while undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit in the second fatal stabbing in the space of three days.

Local media identified the deceased as Mohamed Mazin, from Dhiggaamaage in Noonu Miladhoo, who was residing in Henveiru Shaiban in the capital.

Mazin was assaulted on Saturday morning around 9:50am near the Henveiru Park along with Ali Arif, 18, also from H. Shaiban.

Police said Mazin had three stab wounds on his back while Arif was stabbed in the ribcage.

A 34-year-old was also stabbed to death on the island of Thulusdhoo in Kaafu atoll on Thursday night (July 31).

Police have since arrested 12 suspects in connection with the spate of violent assaults in the capital during the past six days.

Police revealed yesterday that the Criminal Court has extended the remand detention of three suspects while the other nine remained in temporary police custody as of last night.

“Efforts are also underway to locate other suspects,” according to police media.

The serious and organised crime department was collecting CCTV camera footage from across the capital, police said, and searching for suspects based on information relayed by members of the public.

The stabbing of the 18-year-old pair yesterday brought the number of victims of violent crimes during the past week to nine.

On the previous night (August 1), a 19-year-old was stabbed near the Henveiru Park and hospitalised after sustaining head injuries.

Last 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.

Prior to the recent fatal stabbings, there had been 29 murders in the Maldives since 2007.

Meanwhile, the Jumhooree Party has called on the government to take necessary measures to curb the escalating violence while former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom called for “murderers” to be “caught and punished according to law.”

“Where are the killers of Afrashim, Muheeth, policeman Haleem and others?” the leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives tweeted.

Task force

Police meanwhile revealed that Chief Inspector Ibrahim Naveen, head of the central operations command, together with commanders of relevant departments have commenced “special efforts” to curb the spike in violent crime “on the advice of Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed.”

A task force committee has been formed to supervise and oversee the efforts, police said.

Similar task forces were set up in recent years to combat gang violence in the capital, most recently in May 2013 after four stabbings in 48 hours.

As part of the present efforts, police have been stopping and frisking individuals and searching residences based on intelligence information.

Police are also searching for individuals “suspected of committing violent assault with sharp objects”.

Moreover, the Specialist Operations (SO) department along with Malé City police and traffic police would be questioning and frisking individuals “loitering on the streets with no purpose” both after midnight and during the day.

Security operations have also been stepped up in Vilimalé and Hulhumalé.

As police were finding it hard to identify suspects due to “difficulties” obtaining information from eyewitnesses at crime scenes, police appealed for cooperation from members of the public.

“Those who share such information with police will receive due protection,” police assured.

report by the Asia Foundation in late 2012 found that political and corporate elites financed gangs “to carry out a range of illegal activities that serve their political or business interests”.

Police statistics meanwhile reveal 95 incidents of assault reported in July alone, bringing the total number of assault cases to 697 this year. Approximately 1,500 cases of assault are reported annually in the Maldives, of which a majority occurs in Malé.


ICJ condemns violent assault on Velezinee

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has condemned the violent assault earlier this week on Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member Aishath Velezinee, calling on the government to “immediately launch an independent, impartial, and transparent investigation into this shocking crime.”

Velezinee, President Mohamed Nasheed’s outspoken member on the JSC, was stabbed three times in the back by unidentified assailants on Monday morning while walking in Chandanee Magu in Male’.

“The ICJ is gravely concerned that the attack may be politically motivated. The stabbing took place in daylight in a public space, with no evidence of robbery or theft,” reads a press release issued by the ICJ yesterday.

“Ms. Velezinee’s fearless and controversial advocacy on behalf of justice for ordinary citizens of the Maldives has earned her a constant barrage of verbal attacks from prominent political figures,” said Roger Normand, the ICJ’s Asia Pacific Director. “The government must take swift action, not only to investigate this cowardly stabbing, but equally important, to reaffirm the centrality of rule of law in the new constitutional order.”

After visiting Velezinee at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) shortly after the attack, President Nasheed vowed that “no stone will be left unturned” to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said today that police were not ready to disclose details at this stage of the investigation or confirm if any arrests have been made.

The ICJ notes that Velezinee has publicly criticized the JSC for “abandoning its constitutional mandate under articles 159 and 285 by failing to follow transparent and lawful procedures during the vetting process of the judiciary.”

Article 285 of the constitution mandated the JSC to determine, before 7 August 2010, whether or not the judges on the bench possessed “the educational qualifications, experience and recognized competence necessary to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a judge, [and] high moral character”.

In May 2010, the JSC decided to reappoint all sitting judges unless they have been convicted in court of either a crime with a punishment prescribed in the Quran, criminal breach of trust or treason – a decision that, Velezinee warned at the time, could “rob the nation of an honest judiciary” by giving tenure to 19 judges with either prior convictions by other state institutions or allegations of gross misconduct.

In August, a majority of the 10-member JSC – including MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Afrashim Ali, together with the three judges on the commission – decided to reappoint 191 of 197 sitting judges despite Velezinee’s vocal opposition and concerns about the competency and integrity of a number of judges appointed under the former administration.

President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair observed at the time that while two members opposed the move to rush the reappointments – Velezinee and General Public Member Shuaib Abdul Rahman – “a common thread ties all the other eight members. They either belong to the opposition DRP, or they are strong supporters.”

“The outgoing government has made sure it would retain control of institutions like the judiciary,” he noted.

Zuhair explained that while the government was communicating with international institutions on the issue, such as the ICJ, “so far we have been advised to do everything possible to keep to ‘norms and standards’. But that’s difficult when of the 197 judges, only 35 have any recognised qualifications. All the others have a local diploma.”