Prisoner of the Month

A prominent Maldivian artist Mr. Naushad Waheed is being profiled at Writers in Prison for this month:

A cyberdissident and prominent artist in the Maldives, Naushad Waheed has been an outspoken critic of the government for many years. His latest arrest took place on 9 December 2001 in Mal�. He was held in Dhoonidhoo detention centre for about five months before being transferred to house arrest. On 14 October 2002 he was tried in the Criminal Court without access to a lawyer or the opportunity to defend himself and ten days later was sentenced to fifteen years. He was charged with treason, reportedly because of his involvement in public debates deemed critical of the government and correspondence with Amnesty International detailing human rights abuses�

The following Amnesty report comments on the dire states of the human rights situation in the country including the state of the criminal justice system:

�The courts apply a version of the Islamic Shari�a mixed with elements of the civil law of 1968 and its amendments. The modified Shari�a does not include amputation or stoning to death but sanctions floggings and the sentence of banishment to a remote island. The origin of banishment as a punishment in the Maldives reportedly dates back to previous centuries when rebellious slaves - brought back by some Maldivians from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca - were marooned in the island of Felidhu.

Under current regulations, the length of the banishment sentence may vary from eight months to one or two years but much longer sentences are reportedly also imposed. The prisoner is sent to live on an island with the local inhabitants. It is then left to the prisoner to earn money - usually through hard labour - to top up the meagre daily allowance given to him or her by prison authorities. This allowance is reportedly a very small amount of money hardly sufficient for one meal a day. Prisoners who cannot find work have to rely on the financial support of their relatives for subsistence�

Mohamed Nasheed, writer, politician and member of parliament advocating reforms, was arrested on 8 October 2001 and held incommunicado for several weeks. On 8 November, following a trial lasting only two hours, he was sentenced to be banished for two and a half years to a remote atoll, on charges of "theft" of unspecified government property. During his trial at the Criminal Court, he was not permitted access to a lawyer or to speak in his own defence. After the trial, he was banished to a remote island.� He was "expelled" from the Parliament in March 2002 on grounds that he had been absent for more than six months - while he was in detention.

�On 8 November 2001 he was taken to court where he was charged with the "theft" of "government property". The charge reportedly related to the purchase, apparently without payment, of several children�s copy books at an auction at the former residence of former President Amir Ibrahim Nasir in October 2001. Mohamed Nasheed was one of dozens of visitors to this auction. According to him, the official from whom Mohamed Nasheed inquired about the price told him the books were insignificant and he need not pay. Several other visitors who were buying other small items were also reportedly told they need not pay. However, Mohamed Nasheed was the only one who was charged with theft�A political motive behind his arrest was obvious. Prior to his arrest, he was outspoken in the parliament, advocating reforms. �Furthermore, Mohamed Nasheed�s computer was taken away for scrutiny�

For some lucky criminals being banished to a remote island may not be that bad after all as this article from CNN suggests. Anyway it is such a sad spectacle to see peoples� fundamental rights being violated in this age of democracy and the internet. Another MP seems to have become now in disfavor of the government.


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on August 11, 2004 1:31 PM.

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