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Lawyers to parliament over Home Minister Imran's "irresponsible" remarks

Mariyam Malsa
25 October 2020, MVT 14:59
Victim's lawyers condemn Minister Imran's remarks
Mariyam Malsa
25 October 2020, MVT 14:59

The lawyers representing the victim of the safari sexual assault case, on Sunday, addressed a letter to Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed condemning Minister of Home Affairs Abdulla Imran's remarks which downplayed the severity of the case.

Speaking on air during a programme on national radio station 'Dhivehi Raajjeyge Adu' on Saturday, the minister stated that the case was a "minor" incident that "could have been perpetrated in a public space" without attracting attention.

Shafeea Riza and Noorban Fahmy, the legal representatives of the Kenyan woman who was sexually assaulted in June aboard a safari docked at Hulhumale' lagoon, slammed the minimizing remarks made by the head of the Maldives Police Service during the ongoing investigation as "irresponsible".

Highlighting that the victim reported groping, attempts to force her into a room and death threats, the lawyers asserted that the minister's statement did not reflect the information collected during the investigation in any way.

The letter went on to raise doubt over Minister Imran's capability to adequately fulfill his duties following his comments which described sexual assault as a minor matter, encouraged public misunderstanding of the case and shifted blame away from the perpetrators.

The lawyers expressed doubt that the minister understood his obligation as the head of the Maldives Police Service to reduce crime rates and protect the interests of victims.

Noting that Imran's remarks were in contravention with Article 132 (g) of the Constitution, which mandates ministers to protect and promote the rule of law in addition to defending public safety and public interest, the victim's lawyers requested the parliament to launch a no-confidence investigation concerning the home minister and implement any necessary steps.

Furthermore, the letter noted that the victim's lawyers no longer had any hope that the case would be resolved in an impartial and just manner, highlighting that serious concerns regarding the progress of the case were already lodged with the National Integrity Commission (NIC), the Prosecutor General and the Commissioner of Police.

Riza and Co LLP is extending legal assistance to the 27-year-old victim on a pro bono basis with consideration to the prevalence of sexual offences in Maldives and the lack of public confidence in official government channels concerning such crimes.

Minister Imran's comments have caused a public uproar on social media, with many locals using the hashtag #Kudakameh (small matter) to express their disagreement with his views and criticize the poor conviction rate of sexual offenders and inadequate enforcement of laws protecting women and children.

The victim was reportedly invited aboard the safari by a friend, and was later sexually harassed and assaulted by two men. After the woman jumped off the vessel in an effort to escape, she was picked up by a dinghy and transported to the jetty.

The two men, both aged 39, were arrested at the scene. However, they were later released with the authorities claiming, based on the information collected, that detaining them until the investigation concluded would be unnecessary.

Although initial reports by local media state that the victim was raped aboard the vessel, and that authorities released the suspects after phone calls from "people high up", the police maintain that the victim was harassed and not raped.

Mendhuru Online, the local media outlet that first reported the incident as rape, has issued an apology over misinformation in their account of the case and removed the article from their website.

In a later interview published by local media outlet Mihaaru, the victim reportedly stated that she did not wish to press charges, that she did not have complaints regarding the police investigation, and that she had not spoken to any media outlets prior to Mihaaru.

Several members of the public have expressed skepticism over the aforementioned interview, citing the parallels between initial media reports and official police statements as well as the accounts claiming that the woman was intimidated, threatened with deportation and presented with bribes.

Authorities came under fire by the public for releasing the suspects at such an early stage of the investigation, and withholding information about the alleged perpetrators. Negative public opinion was further stoked by rumours that one of the alleged suspects is connected to politicians serving in the incumbent administration.

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