Maldivian Atheist arrested, tortured while in custody

Maldivian atheist Rusthum (twitter @RusthumRusso) was first arrested on 10th September 2019 and is still in police custody.

Our sources inform us that Rusthum was arrested after he asked the Maldives Police Service for protection from the religious extremists on his island who were giving him death threats. He was subsequently released for a few days in March 2020 but was arrested again due to continued complaints about him.

Our source informs us that Rusthum has been tortured while in Maldives Police Custody.

Furthermore, Maldivian lawyers are scared to represent him as Rusthum is refusing to lie and pretend to be Muslim in order to secure his release.

Police have also confiscated his hard drive, on which they found pornographic materials. These materials are also being to hold him in custody. This is despite the main cases against him being for “trying to disrupt religious unity” and “blasphemy”.

Local news Vaguthu (notorious for being anti-diversity and against laadheenee rights) has written two articles about his case.

The first is titled “Islaamee dheenah furrassaara kuri meehaage’ nafsaanee testuthakeh hadhanee” (Mental evaluations are being conducted on the person who blasphemed against Islam) and is from 3rd August 2019.

Website link / Archived Link One / Archived Link Two

The article reads:

The man from Gaafu Dhaalu (G.Dh) Thinadhoo who blasphemed against Islam has been taken to Malé in order to conduct a mental evaluation.

The Police has stated that he is currently in their custody, so that they may do tests on him, and also so that he may undertake counselling sessions under the guidance of the Islamic Ministry.

The man from that island who came out against Islam was arrested last month on the 10th of September (2019).

He is a youth who has in the past raised his voice against Islam in the mass media.

The article (as of publication of this post) has 8 comments.

Translations of those comments are as follows:

  • Riz (October 3, 2019) [86 likes / 1 dislike]- Noticing how everyone who insults Islam is being made out to have mental health issues….
  • BLAA (October 3, 2019) (In reply to above comment) [18 likes]- Noticing is the ionly thing huh?
  • Mudharis (teacher) (October 3, 2019) [39 likes / 3 dislikes] – From this we can understand that the only people who insult Islam are people who have mental issues. Everyone who doesn’t have some kind of mental illness will accept Islam.
  • Venom (October 3, 2019) [35 likes] – I think that Nazim Sattar and Aniya should be made to do that test too.
  • Dhonkamana (October 4, 2019) [7 likes] – Mudharis, are you saying that all infidels are mental people?
  • Thuhairu (October 4, 2019) [6 likes] – Wonder if they’ll start arresting the people from Malé who insult Islam?
  • Dhansoora (October 4, 2019) [9 likes] – All officials from this government, and all parliament members as well, should be made to undergo such evaluations.
  • Addu Meehaa (October 4, 2019) [8 likes] – If its conducted by this government, then he will be a mental person for sure.

The second article is titled “Islam dheenah furrasaarakuri Rusthumge’ machah dhauvaa kuran fonuvaifi” (The case of Rusthum, who insulted Islam, has been submitted to court for action) and is from 28th April 2020.

Website Link / Archived Link One

Underneath the photograph is the caption: “Rusthum, who insults the religion”.

The article reads:

The case against Rusthum, who was arrested while engaging in blasphemy on G. Dh. Thinadhoo (yes the article writes this bit in present tense), has been sent by the Police to the office of the Prosecutor General (PG).

When a police media official was contacted by Vaguthu for comment, they stated that a case for blasphemy had been sent. However the official did not disclose who the person was. Vaguthu understands that the person is Rusthum.

Rusthum was first arrested for organising a gathering against religion in Thinadhoo, where he would tell the youths things against religion, and for stating that he was going public with his actions against religion on twitter.

While under arrest for those issues, his release was ordered by the Thinadhoo Magistrates Court in March of 2020. Upon release, Rusthum once again resumed blaspheming and tweeting.

The problem of his release attracted a lot of negative attention to the government and the PG office from people who were unhappy this development. Due to this, PG Mohamed Shameem, even made a tweet. In this tweet, PG Mohamed Shameem stated that in the past, people who had blasphemed against religion will have action taken against them, and action against such blasphemers will continue to happen. And he stated that trying to spread discord without trying to find the truth in matters was something that he found sad.

The article (as of publication of this post) has 3 comments.

Translations of those comments are as follows:

  • Rusthum (April 28, 2020) [1 like / 1 dislike] – Will they rule to kill him then?
  • Anonymous (April 28, 2020) [5 likes] – Shameem is someone who is like Rusthum. People who used to be in MDN (Maldivian Democracy Network) are within this laadheenee government.
  • Anonymous (April 28, 2020) [6 likes / 1 dislike] – Rusthum is the only one under trial? Where is the MDN gang, who in league with this government, blasphemed against religion? Just because Shahindha (MDN head – Shameem’s ex-wife) is Shameem’s wife she shouldn’t make the ranks of this laadheenee gang? Is this the standard of the government that came in to abolish injustice and establish justice? It is an atrocity that this government has done, this laadheenee group has been deported and sent out the country,

The tweet by Maldivian Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem is below.

Tweet link / Archived Link One / Archived Link Two

Translation of the tweet:

The religion of Maldives is Islam. Court action will be taken against people who insult religion. Action was taken in the past, and will be taken in the future. People who don’t look into the truth of matters, and instead try to create discord around issues, is something that is sad.

Thundu Hassan:

Look into the problem swiftly and take action.

Hussain Shameem’s reply:

Action has been taken in the past. We take it now as well. (You?) Just don’t look.

Below is a reply from extremist religious figure Ali Zaid. It appears that Shameem’s tweet is a response to Zaid more than anything else.

Translation:

The question is not whether court actions are being taken or not!

What is the “greatest action/punishment according to the law” that can be taken against such people?! That is the real question.

To know the actions that the PG can take in such issues is something that would make the citizens happy.

Below are some replies which we have translated to provide further context into the situation faced by Maldivian ex-Muslims and religious minorities such as Rusthum.

Ironically the above two women are using balloons in their username, which is used by people on twitter to show solidarity with Yameen Rasheed, who was murdered for (among other things) supporting religious freedom and the rights of Laadheenee people. Read his work “Hitting the Blind Spot”.

Translation: My question is, why isn’t Maldivian citizenship taken away from people who become apostates?

Translation: Tweet like this to smooth things over. He’s going to end up being free. Just like how Shameem’s ex-wife insulted religion. This government isn’t going to do much.

Translation: The moment the subject of why no action is taken against blasphemers is is mentioned, discord (is brought up).

Translation: New version “discord”. Old version “criticism” or “making responsible”.

Translation (Aishath Zahukko): The truth of the matter is that lawmakers have made laws that make it so that blasphemers get the lightest of punishments, while hurting Muslims by claiming their ideology is extreme!

Translation (Temporary Dunya): Being extreme is the only way we can give punishments. Islamic Shariah makes clear what is to be done in the case of apostasy.

Translation (spiker): If that is so, then why are the people who wrote the MDN report in high level government positions? And why are such people able to flee the Maldives in secrecy?

Translation (Temporary Dunya): We need to establish justice even if it’s the ex-wife. If they’re in Germany, I pray that woman is visited by COVID 19.

Translation: The moment someone says something to defend the religion, it is labelled as discord. Is this to silence such voices or scare someone from saying such things a second time?

Translation: The selling of haram alcohol and pork on resorts, and the infidel women who walk around in their underwear, isn’t that a great blasphemy against Islam?

Translation: He is someone who has insulted Allah. His twitter cover photo states that “Allah is dead”. Is is possible to make a greater insult than this? Yet it’s just a five month sentence. Is this what you call taking action? How about you establish Islamic Shariah. It’ll be much easier.

Translation: I call on the PG to follow and fear Allah. Don’t play games with these issues! What action has been taken? He is saying he is not a Muslim. The Maldivian constitution says that only Muslims can be Maldivian citizens. Action has been taken huh?

Maldivian apostates and “blasphemers” like Rusthum are particularly vulnerable as they live on small islands where there is literally nowhere to run. Gossip spreads fast and the mental anguish of being ostracised from ones own community cannot be overstated. Furthermore, people like him often lack the resources of more connected people (such as elites from Malé) who have more options in terms of legal representation and the financial capability to flee the country if need be. More often than not, the elite class do not speak about these issues because they simply do not need to. They do not desire these basic human rights as the Maldives is already their playground – they may do as they wish and they come and go as they please. To talk about these issues would only attract unwanted attention to them so they stay quiet and enjoy their privilege.

Meanwhile, most Maldivians have to deal with being arrested for simply reporting death threats to the police. Who are Maldivian minorities supposed to ask for protection, if not the police? Who can we trust?

We will post updates on Rusthum’s situation as we get them.

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