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Ex-Islamic minister defends death penalty regulations

Dr Shaheem, the vice chancellor of the Maldives Islamic University, argued that the concerns raised by Professor Tariq Ramadan in a letter to the president last week are addressed in the regulations approved by the cabinet in April 2014 for implementing the death penalty.



Former Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has accused Professor Tariq Ramadan of “bringing the Maldives into disrepute” with an appeal to halt the imminent execution of a 22-year-old convict.

Ramadan wrote to President Abdulla Yameen after the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence handed to Hussain Humam Ahmed over the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012, paving the way for the Maldives’ first execution since 1953.

In a Facebook post last Thursday, Shaheem argued that the concerns raised by the renowned Islamic scholar are addressed in the regulations approved by the cabinet in April 2014 for implementing the death penalty.

Ramadan’s concerns included the fairness of the trial as Humam claims he was coerced into confessing, the court’s refusal to order an independent psychiatric evaluation, and an ignored request by the victim’s family to delay the death penalty.

Afrasheem’s family have requested delaying Humam’s execution until the murder is solved as he is a key witness in identifying the financiers.

The professor said he was convinced that executing Humam “would contravene the fundamental principles of Islamic law.”

But Shaheem insisted that the regulations are in full compliance with Islamic sharia.

It requires the Islamic ministry to mediate between the victim’s family and the convict, he wrote, adding that the death penalty cannot be enforced if even one of the heirs pardons the killer.

Under Maldivian law and Islamic sharia, the principle of qisas or retaliation in kind allows the family to demand the death penalty, ask for blood money, or pardon the killer.

“Even if the SC issues a death sentence, the regulations say the state can only execute a person after completing all the Islamic sharia procedures,” Shaheem wrote.

He added: “Therefore, it is regretable that some foreign parties are bringing the Maldives into disrepute without looking into how this is being done.”

Shaheem also claimed that the convict cannot be executed until all of the victim’s heirs reach adulthood.

Two of Dr Afrasheem’s heirs are underage. However, the criminal court opted for the death penalty “in the interest of public safety” without waiting for them to reach legal age.

Shaheem, a founding member of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, resigned from the cabinet in May last year. After announcing his retirement from politics, he was appointed vice chancellor of the newly established Islamic University of Maldives in July 2015.

Meanwhile, responding to Shaheem’s post, his Adhaalath party colleague, Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef, questioned whether the government is trying to implement sharia or “kill a particular person”.

Iyaz, the former vice president of the Fiqh academy, noted that the cases of other convicts sentenced to death before Humam have yet to reach the Supreme Court, which upheld its first death penalty sentence at a 2am hearing.

“Therefore, it is questionable how sincere the [government] is,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Shaheem meanwhile went on to suggest that the Maldives is facing international pressure because the government intends to implement the death penalty in accordance with Islamic sharia.

“Death penalty exists in large countries. We don’t see people talking about that,” he wrote.

“And Western armies are bombing and killing innocent women, children, and the eldery without a judgment from any court in the world. There’s no one concerned about this.”

President Yameen had echoed Shaheem’s sentiments in his Eid message to the public last week.

Despite growing foreign pressure and criticism, Yameen said his administration has resolved to enforce capital punishment.

The remarks followed calls from UN human rights experts, the European Union, and Amnesty International to halt Humam’s execution.

Hugo Swire, the UK Foreign Office Minister, joined the chorus of concern on Thursday.

Hours before Yameen’s Eid address, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon resigned citing “profound differences of opinion on the government’s policy in implementing the death penalty at a time when serious questions are being asked, and concerns being expressed, about the delivery of justice in the Maldives.”

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – Dunya’s father and half-brother of the incumbent president – has also opposed Humam’s execution without the consent of the victim’s family.

Gayoom, a moderate religious scholar who maintained the moratorium during his 30 years in power, said in a tweet: “No Islamic state has the right to carry out qisas except as provided in Islam.”