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PG Office presses charges against Abdulla Shah over 'Safari Case'

Mariyam Malsa
11 January 2021, MVT 17:29
Protesters amid a demonstration held on the streets of Male' City, against all forms of sexual violence and to hold perpetrators and the authorities accountable, on June 29, 2020. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
11 January 2021, MVT 17:29

The Prosecutor General's Office, on Monday, charged Abdulla Shan over the sexual assault of a Kenyan woman on a liveaboard docked at Hulhumale' on June 26, 2020.

According to the PG Office, Shan was charged with sexual harassment and assault, as well as delivering threats and intimidation.

Despite the three charges raised against Shan, the cases of two additional individuals that the police sought charges against were sent back. The PG Office maintained that there was insufficient evidence to press charges against the two individuals.

Shan is presently married to parliamentary representative for Lhaviyani Atoll's Hinnavaru Constituency Jeehan Mahmood. She also serves as the chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Gender Issues.

The victim, a 27-year-old woman, 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, later issued an apology over misinformation in their account of the case and removed the article from their website.

In an interview published by local media outlet Mihaaru after Mendhuru's account, 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 scepticism 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 under duress at the time of the interview, and 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.

Since the beginning of the year, public ire has grown considerably over the government's meagre record of arresting and convicting sexual offenders, despite numerous pledges made to protect the rights of children and women.

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