ISIS Propagandist, Students In Ukraine, Three-Hour Presidency

Maldivian fighters in Syria

Friday, February 25

A 30-year-old Maldivian man who was arrested with the help of the FBI and two EU nations on 6 January was a “prominent operative” of the militant group Islamic State, the police revealed. He is suspected to have been encouraging terrorism and spreading IS propaganda on social media and messaging platforms since 2015. His photos, videos and text targeted different countries with translated content. He had been “calling for [the] perpetration of acts of terror on European soil and to harm its leaders,” according to the police chief.

Terror suspects are rarely found guilty in the Maldives. Earlier this month, the criminal court acquitted a Maldivian man who was charged with terrorism financing and inciting acts of terror. The prosecution was unable to prove that it was the defendant who posted terrorist content on his Facebook accounts or that he had received money from an American IS operative, the judge ruled, dismissing evidence provided by American agencies as inconclusive. Other damning evidence of financial transactions from a local money transfer service was deemed inadmissible. The judge argued that the criminal procedures law only allows such evidence obtained from licensed banks.

Friday, February 25

Vice President Faisal Naseem temporarily assumed the presidency as President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih underwent thyroid surgery in Singapore. The chief justice administered the oath of office in the presence of the speaker of parliament. After the successful procedure, President Solih resumed office in three and a half hours. “I am presently recuperating and in good spirits,” he tweeted.

Former president Abdulla Yameen led the opposition’s ‘India Out’ protest on Viligili island in Gaaf Alif Atoll.

15 Maldivian students stranded in Ukraine have reached a Hungarian consulate and arrangements are being made for them to cross the border into Hungary, the foreign minister announced.

The government is “working round the clock to take the 9 remaining on the western side of Ukraine to safer areas,” said the foreign ministry spokesman.

Most of the 50 medical students in Ukraine were able to leave the country before the Russian invasion. But some Maldivians were stuck as flights were cancelled.

The government provided financial assistance to 21 students and increased transaction limits on their Bank of Maldives cards, according to the higher education ministry.

A 50-hour extreme diving event kicked off in South Malé Atoll to mark the 50th anniversary of tourism.

The Local Government Authority, the oversight and regulatory body for municipal councils, published a ranking of city, atoll and island councils based on a performance index.

Thursday, February 24

A Maldivian man was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay MVR1.3 million (US$84,300) as blood money for the murder of a Bangladeshi man in 2015. The defendant was reportedly found guilty of manslaughter as the judge ruled that the prosecution failed to prove intent for premeditated murder.

Thursday, February 24

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed repeated his plea to hire an international forensic accountancy firm to investigate the theft of US$90 million during the previous administration. The “state will fail” if cases are not properly investigated and prosecuted, the former president warned.

Wednesday, February 23

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has set a watch or warning status for coral bleaching in the coming weeks, the Maldives Marine Research Institute said, appealing for reports of any signs of bleaching in the country’s reefs.

Wednesday, February 23

Two fire incidents occurred in Malé. A fire broke out at a foreign workers’ residence in the morning and 10 people affected by smoke were sent to the nearby Senahiya hospital. Firefighters worked for half an hour to extinguish the flames. The second incident caused extensive damage before the fire was put out in about 10 minutes. No one was hurt, according to the fire and rescue service.

Loan financing has been secured from the Kuwait Fund to develop a tertiary hospital in Thinadhoo, Health Minister Ahmed Naseem told parliament. The constituency’s lawmaker questioned why the project remained stalled despite inclusion in the budget for the past two years. Design work is ongoing and the project will be tendered in the second quarter, the minister said. The island’s hospital is being upgraded in the meantime as the new hospital will take two years to finish, he added.

Tuesday, February 22

The president decided to dissolve an inquiry commission on child rights violations upon the conclusion of its mandated duties, which was “identifying and analysing the root causes of all forms of violations against children, the current situation of victims and the accountability of state institutions”.

After deliberations by the cabinet, the president decided to establish a National Digital Identification System, which would “enable the adoption of biometric technologies in [the Department of National Registration’s] identity management systems and the introduction of contactless identification cards” along with plans to develop “digital identification applications for smartphones and extend the use of the digital identification platform to the private sector.”

The cabinet also approved a four-year gender equality action plan and appointed the president as chair of a steering committee.

Tuesday, February 22

The ruling party’s supermajority rejected constitutional amendments proposed by an opposition MP to change the composition of the Judicial Service Commission, a 10-member oversight body with representatives from the judiciary, executive and legislature. MP Ahmed Thoriq proposed replacing political officeholders with retired judges, lawyers and academics.

Changing the watchdog’s composition was a campaign pledge of the ruling party. But leaders and lawmakers now favour different proposals. During the debate on Thoriq’s bill, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed noted that the Maldivian Democratic Party’s national congress on 4 August will decide its stance on significant constitutional amendments, including the JSC’s composition and the system of government. Despite the MDP’s supermajority, other parties will be consulted ahead of the monumental changes, he assured.

Nasheed favours shifting to a parliamentary system after a public referendum. If the current presidential system is kept in place, the former president has proposed scrapping the requirement to win over 50 percent of the vote. A run-off would only be needed if the leading candidate fails to secure over 30 percent.

MP Thoriq

The family court officiated 85 marriages in a new daily record. Many couples chose to tie the knot on the palindrome date (22.2.22). Seats with a tent cover were put up outside the busy courthouse in Malé.

Monday, February 21

An alleged case of bullying at the School of Medicine is under investigation, the Maldives National University said, assuring action and appealing against “misleading” media reports.

Monday, February 21

Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem expressed dismay at a magistrate court’s release of a drug trafficking suspect in apparent defiance of a High Court order. The decision will be appealed and a complaint will be filed with the judicial watchdog, he tweeted.

The Hithadhoo magistrate court reportedly suspended the High Court’s order to detain the defendant for the duration of his trial – an unprecedented move for a lower court.

Later in the week, the magistrate court condemned the chief prosecutor’s tweet as an “inappropriate” attempt to “intimidate a judge”. According to the court, state prosecutors did not object to releasing the suspect for medical treatment.

Malé Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu opened a Sinamalé flat office and laid foundation stones for an Islamic Bank ATM and temporary market in Vilimalé.

UK tariff on Maldivian tuna exports will be on the agenda for regular Bilateral Policy Dialogues agreed during State Minister for South and Central Asia Lord Tariq Ahmad’s visit, the first high-level one from the UK since 2018.

Sunday, February 20

The Hulhumalé magistrate court will be dissolved through legislation to rectify a “clear injustice and major legal inconsistency”, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath vowed, after the Supreme Court declined to review a 2012 judgment by its former bench that backed the court’s legitimacy. The magistrate court was created illegally for the “political purpose” of jailing former president Mohamed Nasheed, the attorney general contends.

According to the Judicature Act, only superior courts could be based in Malé. Other islands should have magistrate courts. Therefore, a magistrate court could not be established in Hulhumalé as it is an administrative district of the capital and not a separate island, the Judicial Service Commission explained.

Sunday, February 20

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih concluded a tour of six islands in Lhaviyani Atoll. During the three-day trip, he met with community leaders, inaugurated a new extension building of the Naifaru school, and handed over newly-built 100 housing units to the island council.

Local NGO Maldives Ocean Plastics Alliance donated two bins and four gunny bags to each household in Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo, facilitating the separate collection of organic, plastic, metal and glass waste. Plastic bottles are to be sent to Malé for recycling by Parley Maldives.

Saturday, February 19

Former state minister Assad Ali returned to the country and turned himself in to serve a 15-day jail sentence.

The national team footballer stood as a guarantor for former tourism minister Ali Waheed’s medical leave to the UK last year. He had been facing trial over the alleged sexual assault and harassment of female staff.

Assad was sentenced for contempt of court over his failure to ensure Ali Waheed’s return to stand trial. The sentence was passed in absentia as the state minister absconded after he was notified of the hearing earlier this month. He was promptly sacked from the political post. Upon his return, Assad was taken into custody at the airport.

The authorities have been unable to bring back the fugitive ex-minister, reportedly due to the lack of an extradition treaty with the UK.

Ali Waheed and Assad Ali.

Saturday, February 19

The ADK Hospital performed the country’s first-ever Trans-Aortic Valve Implantation on an 81-year-old Maldivian man, a procedure that “replaces diseased heart valves without need for open-heart surgery in carefully selected patients.”