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President regrets early release of child sex offender

Solih expressed regret for the decision to commute Ibrahim Rasheed’s sentence.



President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Wednesday expressed regret over his decision to commute the 10-year prison sentence of a convicted child sex offender in December.

Ibrahim Rasheed, known as ‘Hoara Ibbe,’ an under-secretary at the president’s office during the previous Maldivian Democratic Party government, was sentenced in December 2013. Shortly after assuming office last November, President Solih followed a recommendation of the clemency board from 2016 and authorised Rasheed’s early release, a decision that sparked outrage on social media.

Appearing on Raajje TV’s Fashaairu morning show, Solih said he was still troubled by the decision although it was done within legal bounds.

“But I now wish I hadn’t done it,” he said, adding that he regretted the move. “It was done a bit too hastily. If it had been done in my real pace, it wouldn’t have happened that way.”

In his first appearance on a live television show since the inauguration, Solih highlighted a free education scheme for students pursuing first degrees in the Maldives and extending paid maternity leave to six months for civil servants as the proudest achievements of the first 100 working days.

He reiterated the key pledge of solving the housing crisis and gave assurances that monthly rent for social housing flats would not exceed MVR6,000 (US$389).

Solih said his administration has achieved 83 percent of targets set in an ambitious 100-day action plan.

Child sex offender Rasheed’s release came during the third week of Solih’s administration, sparking an outcry and debates concerning grooming, age of consent and Islamic shariah.

An online petition was also launched to urge President Solih to reconsider the decision.

The Clemency Act lists sexual offences against minors as crimes for which convicts cannot be pardoned. But the law allows commutation of sentences.

Rasheed was arrested in December 2012 after police raided a house in Malé. According to media reports, police officers found the 46-year-old naked with a 17-year-old girl.

He later married her when she turned 18. The couple remains married with two children.

Rasheed was charged under a 2009 law on special provisions for child sexual abuse that introduced hefty jail terms. Based on witness testimony during the closed-door trial, he was found guilty of touching a minor with sexual intent.