Interview w/DO

Interview with Dhivehi Observer
after ‘Black Friday

November 2004 – Translated from Dhivehi Interview

Question: Would you give us a brief description of your life?

Since my graduation in 1984 to the present day, I have worked towards establishing
democracy and human rights in its best form in Maldives during my visits to all
inhabited islands of Maldives. I can say that I have friends in every inhabited island. My
friends vary from chiefs of the islands to the most common person are close friends. I
can discuss all kinds of matters with these friends. So people like me and support me.
Maldivians are always interested in listening to reform ideas.

Since 1984, I have been serving the Maldivian government. On 8 August the Minister
of Atolls sent a letter to the President’s Office saying that there is no work for me to
do at the ministry, so I have been given a notice of employment termination now.

Up until this date, there was work for me to do but on the day of the Special
constitutional Majlis’ first meeting, where there was disagreement in interpreting a
constitutional clause, the minister made it personal and did this to me. There was
disagreement among the members with regard to the interpretation of some clauses in
the constitution. I disagreed with the decision of the Atolls minister who was the
temporary speaker during this meeting.

In my opinion, the minister’s decision was contrary to the constitution and so I took the
matter to the court. I took the temporary speaker of the Special constitutional Majlis to
the court, not the private individual Abdulla Hameed of Meenaz house and I no issues
with him. There should not be any personal hatred between us. If he is to hold a
grudge over this kind of matter then it shows the ineptness of the minister.

During the rule of this regime, I have been imprisoned five times and kept in solitary
confinement in a cell in Dhoonidhoo. In addition to these imprisonments, I was
interrogated and reprimanded by Anbaree Abdul Sattar and Isthafa Ibrahim Manik by
summoning me to the Defence Ministry, soon after I returned from overseas after
graduation in 1984, over articles I wrote for a students’ magazine. They said the
articles discussed Maldivian politics. This matter ended with a threat, instead of

1. First time in Dhoonidhoo prison
This was a matter involved with having heard about the existence of a cassette tape
with a recording of a phone conversation between the then state Minister for Defence
Ilyas Ibrahim and Maakun Abdul Sattar who was held in Dhoonidhoo prison cell at the
time over massive misappropriation charges as the managing director of FPID.

Abdul Sattar received a phone call from the state Minister through a NSS officer while
he was in the Dhoonidhoo cell. I was kept in the Dhoonidhoo prison cell for 45 days
and then taken to the court and sentenced for 6 months imprisonment. This trial was
strange. The person who was responsible for breaking the law remained safe, while
those who listened to the recording of the conversation were severely punished.

No question was asked about the nature or content of the conversation between the
then state Minister for Defence who phoned a person charged with a criminal
offence, and in custody, to discuss the criminal matter. Many people who listened to
the recording of the conversation were imprisoned and then sentenced to further
imprisonment, and others were banished. Such is the justice of this regime. During my
trial I asked the court whether it is justice to chop all branches and leave the trunk of
the tree.

2. Second time in Dhoonidhoo prison
When the government banned Sangu during its infancy, it was the most well-known
independent magazine in Maldives. At this time, I registered a political magazine called
Manthiri. I registered the magazine according to the laws and rules at the ministry of
Information and obtained all required permits. With the layout and the permits, I went
around to all main publishing houses in Maldives but in vain. They refused to publish
out of the fear of the regime.

Mohamed Saeed, the owner of Cyprea print, said that although I had all the permits he
was afraid of publishing it. After a three hour political discussion with Ali Hussein of
Novelty Printers, his answer was that he could only publish it if I could bring him a
letter from the relevant government authorities that there would be no problem after
the magazine was printed at his printery.

It turned out that no government department would issue this type of guarantee. So
we had to go to neighbouring Sri Lanka to print the magazine. As the printed copies of
the magazine arrived at the Hulhule’ airport, the authorities confiscated all the copies.
We shipped 1000 copies by air but the Defence Ministry received about 800 copies.
Some copies disappeared in the customs.

The other editor of Manthiri magazine Adam Rasheed Ahmed of Thalwaaruge (Galolhu
ward) and myself were arrested and imprisoned. In prison, Vaavu Lhahutthu and
myself were woken up in the middle of the night and interrogated over an article in the
magazine I had written under the title: ‘Is the 3 November 88 aggressive attack to
disappear into the history as it is now?’

In this article, I discussed how Progress Light ship was gunned and sunk by the Indian
navy ship Godhavaree while it was in international waters, and also how small bombs
were scattered on the ship from a helicopter. This was carried out after high ranking
Maldivian NSS officers were on board the Indian navy ship, and at their orders. I was
told about this by a flight engineer of Godhavaree at a meeting with me in the library of
the Islamic Centre in Male’. I was told that there was no evidence to prove this story
and I was accused of lying and sentenced for 6 months imprisonment.

3. Third time in Dhoonidhoo prison
The third time was in relation to an explosion incident in Male’ in 1990. A group of
young people who were involved in a democratic reform movement carried out an
explosion in the Sultan park in a way would not cause harm to anyone or damage to
property, after being they have been subject to constant harassment from a gang
known as Binbi force led by Abbas Ibrahim and Kaashidhoo Hussein Fulhu on behalf
of the then state minister for Defence Ilyas Ibrahim.

When this incident took place in late 1990, I was locked in a cell in Dhoonidhoo prison.
But the authorities suspected that Anni (Mohamed Nasheed) and I were aware of the
incident, so I was kept in detention. During this time in prison, I was kept in a cell 6 ft
by 3 ft, made of corrugated iron sheets sometimes in eh-hulhu cuffs, kees bidi (saw
teeth cuffs), chain cuffs, and I was subjected to the punishments of all sorts of

I was interrogated excessively in relation to some members of the Peoples’ Majlis at
the time. I was questioned about Dr Mohamed Waheed and Mohamed (Gogo) Latheef
and other leaders. Incessantly, I was told that I was aware that the members of the
Majlis discussed holding a vote of no confidence in the president, and I should tell my
interrogators about it.

I was kept in this tortured condition for 45 days in the cell, and then taken to the court
without allowing me to go home, and sentenced to six years imprisonment. I was
sentenced under the terrorism law for not informing the authorities about the explosion
in Sultan park.

After keeping me in the small cell in Dhoonidhoo prison for 18 months, I was
transferred to Himmafushi prison (north of Male’ in Kaafu atoll). After 18 months in this
prison I was released – after three years of jail.

4. Fourth time in Dhoonidhoo prison
This time, I was taken to prison in relation to the events that took place on 20
September 2003 after the murder of Evan Naseem (at Maafushi prison south of Male’
in Kaafu atoll).

I was accused of being a leader in the events that followed, and kept in custody for
45 days. When released, I signed a document informing me that they have finished
questioning me and there were no further questions to ask me.

This was a conspiracy against me, and a completely fabricated accusation without a
shred of evidence. When the incidents took place in Male’ I was in Hulhumale’. There
are people who can testify this fact.

5. Fifth time in Dhoonidhoo prison
The fifth time, I was locked up in a cell in Dhoonidhoo in relation to some activities
carried out by people at Republic square on 12 and 13 August 2004. This is what is
popularly known as the events of Black Friday.

On Friday 13 August, I was taken straight from home to a Dhoonidhoo prison cell. I
was transferred from the cell back to home on Tuesday 19 November 2004 in the
afternoon and kept under house detention, after being kept in the cell for 89 days. I am
still under house detention.

On 1 November 2004, a public announcement was made that my case had been sent
to the court. I was arrested under article 6 of Public laws No. 4/68 part 2 of schedule
1: ‘Offences that allow arrest, and offences that do not allow arrest’.

On 6 October 2004, I signed three copies of the official forms informed that my
investigation was completed. From this moment on, the investigation was officially
completed. But I was kept in custody, contrary to the laws and regulations. I have
been prevented from attending meetings of the constitutional Majlis, in breach of the
laws and regulations. Someone must take responsibility for these matters.

Question: How did you get arrested on Black Friday, 13 August 2004? Why,
when and where?

On Friday, 13 August 2004 at night around 7.30 pm, while I was watching the Asia
Today program on BBC TV, the NSS came to arrest me. At the time, Anni’s (Mohamed
Nasheed’s) interview was just about to start.

I was very sad to have to leave without being able to listen to what Anni had to say.
Yes, I was in my home with my wife and two children in front of the TV. Five NSS
officers came into the house asking where I was, and then told me that I had to go
with them to the police station. So I got ready to go, leaving my mobile phone and
wallet with my wife, and went with the officers.

When I walked out to the street, there was a police jeep ready and waiting to take me
away. I was told to get into the jeep. We drove off and stopped in front of Bandeyrige.
The whole area was packed with NSS officers with batons. They opened the door of
the jeep and led me out and told me to take off my glasses and put them in my pocket.
Then two officers held me very hard and another blindfolded me very tightly with a
piece of black cloth.

They put my hands together behind my back and tied it with a cable tie plastic strip.
This was a type of thing used on criminals in war. It is prohibited in a situation like this
(Ilyas is referring to international law). They first left the strip loose and then put one
end through and pulled it twice to tighten with the weight from my hands . It was
painful and they took a photograph at that moment with a flash light. Before being
blindfolded, I had noticed a female NSS officer with a camera.

They pushed me really hard from behind, and said ‘Let’s go.’ As I was led me, they
kept pinching really hard on my back and my chest. They kept on kicking my legs with
their steel boots, while abusing me in insulting tones. Their behaviour was contrary to
civil police behaviour. They called out, ‘Hey big man, what had happened to you! Don’t
stand still, run! Hey, he’s a politician! He called for Abdulla Hameed’s resignation and he
is the member for Alif Dhaal!’

They called out this kind of abuse in sarcastic tones. This was their song as they
kicked me. I still have scars on right knee from the injuries caused by this kicking. Once
I was inside the entrance of Bandeyrige, someone hit me very hard with two fists and
shoved me as he told me to walk fast. I ran into a corner of a wall and fell over and
scratched a section just below my right shoulder. The scars are still visible.

They took me somewhere while kicking and shoving me constantly. At some point, I
heard the voice of Ibrahim Didi who is an officer of the NSS, and recognising his voice
I called him, ‘Hey, Ibrahim Didi,’ and asked him to remove the cable tying my hands. I
said that I am not made of cable wire. I am muscle, blood and bones. My hands had
become numb and blue. I heard him order his men to untie the cable around my hands.
But the men who were holding me ignored him, so I repeated the same thing three
times at Ibrahim Didi and asked if this is what they do to members of the Special Majlis
and started yelling very loudly.

Then I heard him say very loudly, ‘Undo that thing!’ He also ordered that the blindfold be
removed, and told them to take me upstairs and that I was one of the members. While I
was blindfolded, I also felt the rubbing of ink on my right upper arm. When they
removed my blindfold I realised that they had written the number ’140′ in bold print on
my arm. It was written in blue ink in and took two days to remove. An officer named
Abdulla Rasheed met us at the foot of the staircase and those who led me, handed me
over to him. Abdulla Rasheed took me upstairs and told me to sit down on a large

In this room were Ibra (Ibrahim Ismail), Dr. Munavvar, Gasim Ibrahim and Ibrahim
Hussein Zaki. While the five of us were held there, two other members were also
brought in – Thaa atoll member Hussein Rasheed and Baa atoll member Ali Faiz.

When they removed my blindfold, I saw how brutally the people were being treated. It
was the same way as I saw on TV, like prisoners in the Iraq-America war, they were
piled up blindfolded inside Bandeyrige on the floor. There were about a hundred
people blindfolded, hands and legs tied together with plastic strips and piled up. Some
of the people had been thrown there like refuse and others were just left there. There
was at least one NSS guard for every two-three detainees there. I heard people
crying. I saw people with their clothes torn and bloodied.

As we sat upstairs, I heard people downstairs crying and asking for help and yelling
with pain. We also heard the NSS shouting. The men guarding the seven of us,
watched the scene through the windows and they visibly took pleasure in what they

At 3.30 am that night, they took us to the Shaheed Ali Building and we were told they
had arrested us for supporting the illegal gathering of people on 12 and 13 August
2004. This was carried out by two officers called Nawaz and Ali Ahmed. After the
call for dawn prayer, we were taken on board a coast guard speed launch that
looked like a gulf-craft to Dhoonidhoo. I was given a mundu of very thin cotton, a white
t-shit, toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and soap. After taking signature and finger
prints for the receipt of these items, I was put into cell number 17. At that time the sun
has not yet risen. This administrative task was carried out by lady Ibrahim Manik. He
the chief of the Dhoonidhoo prison.

At that time, there was a task force of 15, in full-kit, operating under the command of
an officer with one strip on his sleeve, Abdulla Abdul-Raheem. The task of this force
was to transport people to Dhoonidhoo and subdue and torture them. Many people
claim to have been tortured on the way to Dhoonidhoo. On the way to Girifushi from
Male’, and from Girifushi to Dhoonidhoo, many disclosed to me that they were
subjected to various types cruel treatment. Some people were sexually assaulted.
These matters can be verified from reports of various human rights organisations.

Question: How long were you kept in the cell?

I was kept in solitary confinement in a cell from the night of 13 August when they took
me to Dhoonidhoo prison until 5.00pm on 9 November 2004. I was transferred from cell
17 to cell 26, on Monday 11 October 2004. By then I had been in cell 17 for 60 days.
This was the day other detainees Abujee, Zuhaira, Dhonbi (Elena Abbas), Naube,
Mani Latheef, and Mariyam Manike were taken to Male’ from detention in Dhoonidhoo

The transfers from one cell to another were carried out because of the renovation
work on the cells that began as we were taken to the prison. They renovated about
six cells at a time. When completed, they put detainees in there and then started work
on another six cells. They continued this construction work until it was all completed.
When I was transferred to cell 26, all the new changes had been completed. This
renovation work on the cells meant removal of the toilet door, constructing a concrete
table, a concrete stool, a concrete shelf and a raised concrete platform for a mattress.

With these concrete structures, the cell was virtually full. Cells are 8ft by 8ft, and
there is not even enough space to spread a prayer mat and no space to exercise.
Even before these changes were made there was hardly any air movement in the
cells. With the new changes, they replaced a small gap two bars across, with a small
plastic pipe. The previous gap became small holes in the concrete and there was no
movement of air inside the cell. In some cells, the ventilation gap in the toilet was made
even smaller than before. All these changes were designed to cause more stress and
harm to the prisoners.

During the time of construction work, all inmates in the cells were in pain and
suffering. Some people had breathing difficulties. The medical practitioner at IGMH, Dr
Shakeel, visits Dhoonidhoo and he is aware of all these facts. It is important that his
reports go to the Health ministry.

Later on, after the matter was raised with the Amnesty International members who
visited the prisons, we were given a mask made of cotton material. Even when we
wore this mask, within minutes of construction work beginning, the dust and cement
was so thick our hair and body became white.

They were grinding outside the walls of the cells. They put putty in the cracks and
then put the grinder on it again. They used only a grinder for this work, I did not see a
sander. They cut steel and welded doors – the smoke and noise never ceased until
late at night. The dust was thick and at times it was difficult to breath. No doubt, Dr
Shakeel will testify this.

All the prisoners endured this noise and dust. It is worth noting the colour of the paint
they used inside the cells. A colour more suitable for outside was used inside. The
calmer colour was used on the outside walls. The cells’ interiors were painted a rich
pink colour. Outside, they used a cool light green.

Dark pink is the same colour the Soviet KGB used in their tiny torturing prison cells.
This was based on the belief that mental disturbance results from constantly being
surrounded by this colour. I think it was done in Dhoonidhoo deliberately.

The twenty-nine cells in the number 1 prison in Dhoonidhoo were completed around
20 October 2004. All the people held in number 2 prison after the Black Friday arrests
were moved to this prison . Among them were Husnu Suood, Sappe’ the member for
Meemu, Mohamed Fulhu, IC, Iyaz, Ziyatte, Mahir, Abusee, Anmadey, Falah, Garee
Abdulla, Shukoor of Laamu atoll, and presidential candidate Nazeer.

Yes, I was locked in the cell until 9 November 2004 and then placed under house
detention. Being locked up in these cells inflicted physical and psychological harm.
You can only understand it if you are locked in there. Some people held in these cells
began to rave like lunatics. The intention was to drive them insane or at least inflict
some harm on their minds.

Question: How did you spend time in the cell?

I am a very spiritual person. I did a degree in theology. I became spiritually stronger as
the days passed and my determination strengthened. I did not feel depressed or in
despair. Until 18 October, when we began to receive newspapers and magazines, all
I had to read and think about was the holy Quran. I performed all compulsory prayers
and non-compulsory prayers on time. It was forbidden to converse with anyone and
completely prohibited to speak to a guard. I kept my mind focused on the future and I
was able to stay in control.

On 18 October we began receiving the newspapers Haveeru, Miadhu, Aafathis and
magazines such as Newsweek, Time, Huvaas, and Dahruma. Newspapers were
seven or ten days old when they arrived at Dhoonidhoo. The magazines arrived were
normally that week’s issues. We were not allowed to have a pen, pencil, paper,
notebook or radio. These things were completely prohibited.

Most strange is the raids on the cells. During the 89 days, there were two official
raids. They did a body and mouth search for pen-tips, a refill or a hidden chip – not for
drugs. We were referred as political paarteys. They believed we had a mobile phone
inside prison to send information to an overseas organisation. They suspected this
because of what we told foreign representatives who visited us, and how well
informed we were about these matters and the changes taking place in Male’. We had
the first raid the day after Mr James paid a visit to our prison, but we kept on receiving
information from Male’ as it happened.

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