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State withdraws child sexual abuse case against imaam, cites legal obstacles

Ahmed Aiham
03 February 2020, MVT 13:37
Child sexual abuse cases have taken centre stage since the child sexual abuse case of a two-year-old toddler surfaced in early January. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Ahmed Aiham
03 February 2020, MVT 13:37

State prosecutors on Sunday, withdrew an appeal case against an imaam found not guilty of child sexual abuse which occurred on an island in central Maldives over a decade ago.

The now cold case against the religious leader was filed in 2006. In October 2019, the Criminal Court found him not guilty based on a lack of evidence as per the then-penal code. No evidence other than victim testimonials were admitted to court to support the claims.

Victims (who are now of legal age) and their families have expressed grief and concern over the lack of justice.

Criminal case trials are procedurally based on the penal code in effect at the time of the charges. The Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders only came into effect in 2009, three years after the case was submitted. However, the Criminal Court noted insufficient evidence even under the new legislature.

Allegations against the person involved sexually abusing children during Quran classes he hosted at the mosque and at his residence.

The appeal case was filed during the tenure of former prosecutor general (PG) Aishath Bisham at the High Court. The court concluded the appeal hearings in late January.

"While the standards of determining criminal cases have changed, PG cannot violate the constitution in court. We have faced legal obstacles in this case", said Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem.

Although the case was withdrawn in order to refrain from committing an unlawful act, PG expressed concerns over the lack of justice provided to the victims.

Prosecutors will visit the island in the coming weeks to inform the family regarding the matter.