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Sacked minister Ali Waheed denies all charges in sexual abuse case

Shahudha Mohamed
25 January 2021, MVT 13:31
Former Minister of Tourism Ali Waheed speaking to media about the sexual abuse allegations raised against him by several staff members employed at the ministry. PHOTO: MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
25 January 2021, MVT 13:31

Former Minister of Tourism, on Sunday, denied the seven charges filed against him in a private hearing held at the Criminal Court.

These charges include two counts of sexual abuse, two counts of unlawful sexual contact, a single count of attempted sexual abuse, indecent exposure and a single count of attempted rape.

The public and media were excluded from the hearing, under the power granted to the judge to hold certain hearings in private, considering the sensitive nature of particular cases.

The Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) shared minimal information with the media, revealing that the state had submitted evidence to prove the charges against Ali Waheed after he plead not guilty.

Given the sensitive nature of information surrounding sexual crimes, no further details pertaining to the case were disclosed.

As per DJA, Sunday’s hearing concluded after the judge granted the opportunity for the defendant to present evidence.

Judge Hassan Saeed, presiding over the case, announced that a second preliminary hearing will be scheduled shortly. The Prosecutor General's Office (PGO) filed the seven charges of sexual abuse against Waheed on November 18, 2020.

If found guilty of the charges levied against him, Waheed faces up to 21 years imprisonment, however, he continues to plead not guilty on all counts.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ordered Waheed's resignation on July 8, following complaints regarding incidents of misconduct within the tourism ministry, which were lodged by the ministry staff at the President's Office and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services.

Waheed was sacked on July 9, marking the first time a cabinet minister was fired over allegations of sexual abuse after he failed to tender his resignation as per the order.

Earlier, during a press conference held on July 16, Chief Inspector Mariyam Azma revealed that the sexual harassment case against Ali Waheed was formally lodged at the authorities on July 9, after which the police collected statements from a total of 15 individuals.

After being summoned to Maldives Police Service for the first time since the claims surfaced, Waheed described the accusations against him to the media as a "politically motivated" matter.

Waheed is among a number of politicians facing accusations, amid a string of high- and low-profile sexual abuse, sexual assault and harassment cases that surfaced in 2020.

Several protests have been held by various rights groups and activists in the past, demanding perpetrators and authorities to be held accountable and justice ensured for victims and survivors.

However, public ire continues to soar over the government's meagre record of arresting and convicting perpetrators of sexual offences despite several promises to support the rights of children and women.

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