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Maldivian arrested for criticising Islam

The man received multiple death threats online.



A Maldivian man who received multiple death threats online has been arrested on charges of insulting Islam on social media.

The suspect was arrested from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu atoll, police said.

The 2015 penal code criminalises “criticism of Islam in a public medium with the intention of causing disregard for Islam,” which is categorised as a class one misdemeanour that carries a maximum prison sentence of one year. The 1994 religious unity law also prohibits “attempting to disrupt the religious unity of Maldivians or talking in a manner that creates religious conflict among people.” 

Islam is the state religion of the Maldives and the constitution states a non-Muslim cannot become a citizen.

The local man was behind an anonymous account seen by the Maldives Independent. On Monday, he tweeted at the police about facing death threats. According to attached screenshots, an anonymous Twitter user asked him to “get ready to die” and called on the police to arrest the man “before we behead him.”

Some media outlets identified him as a 38-year-old man who recently moved to the southern island from the capital Malé.

The death threats against the individual were also being investigated as a separate case, police spokeswoman Izmia Zahir told the Maldives Independent.  

Last week, a presidential inquiry commission revealed that Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan was killed five years ago by a local extremist group linked to al-Qaeda. The same group was behind the murders of a moderate religious scholar and liberal blogger, the commission concluded.

Death threats were openly made against human rights defenders and civil society activists in the wake of the brutal murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed in April 2017.