Aishath Velezinee, an outspoken whistleblower as a former member of the judicial watchdog, was arrested Tuesday upon her return to the Maldives after residing overseas for several years.
She was taken into custody in relation to an ongoing investigation, a police spokesman said, declining to provide any further information.
Velezinee is accused of “mocking Islam and leaving the principles of Islam” in videos posted on her Twitter and Facebook accounts, according to the arrest warrant seen by the Maldives Independent.
As her posts had drawn “displeasure and hatred” from the public, Velezinee needed to be in custody both for her own safety and protection of public order, reads the reasons cited for the arrest.
A cybercrime analysis report, a video recording, and a letter and press release from the Islamic ministry was listed as evidence.
In March last year, Velezinee was declared an apostate by the Islamic ministry over the allegedly blasphemous remarks she made in the videos.
A police summons was issued in May for her to appear for questioning within two weeks. She was living in the Netherlands at the time.
The charges in the warrant include obstruction of law enforcement and “criticism of Islam in a public medium with the intention of causing disregard for Islam” under sections 533 and 617 of the penal code.
The 1994 religious unity law was also invoked, which criminalises “attempting to disrupt the religious unity of Maldivians or talking in a manner that creates religious conflict among people.”
Her arrest has sparked fierce debates on social media with many stressing she was mentally unwell when she posted the videos.
Earlier on Tuesday, photos of Velezinee at the airport were widely shared and picked up by some media outlets that branded her an apostate.
Several people openly called for her beheading and murder on Facebook as others urged the authorities to provide her with medical care.
“Mental people should be in mental care hospitals, receiving therapy, not released to the streets to do and say whatever they want!” tweeted Sheikh Ali Zaid, who refused to accept her mental state as an “excuse” for the alleged blasphemy.
In a policy paper published last April, the Islamic ministry listed apostasy and openly mocking Islam as some of the biggest challenges facing the country and recommended expulsion from Maldivian society, financial penalties, and even a prison sentence.
Islam is the state religion of the Maldives and the constitution states a non-Muslim cannot become a citizen.
According to police, liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed was killed in April last year by a group of radicalised young men who believed he was guilty of insulting Islam.
In the wake of the brutal murder, death threats were openly made against human rights defenders and civil society activists, including human rights NGO chief Shahindha Ismail who was probed for “anti-islamic” tweets.
Sorry. But Smedia is flooded with these images. The level of hatred and intimidation leveled at someone who needed help makes me wanna puke! The moron who took these photos has infringed on her safety n put her life in significant danger. Urge @PoliceMv to give protection. pic.twitter.com/QvA6J2iO95
— Huzam (@Huzam) November 13, 2018
— xiena saeed 🎈 (@dorinbakedbeans) November 13, 2018
Half of social media making open death threats, but I wouldn't be surprised if the police go after the threatened for her words.
Because blasphemy from someone who seems mentally unwell is a bigger crime than people openly conspiring to murder?
— EhJu (@EhJu) November 13, 2018
Dear @PoliceMv. Please leave Velezini in peace. She is unwell and you know it. What sensitive and confidential investigations? Is that for those with mental health issues? Your duty is to protect her from the countless attacks on her +
— Shahindha Ismail 🎈 (@HindhaIsmail) November 13, 2018
#FreeVelezini now! You cannot arrest a person who has a mental illness! Clearly there is something very wrong with our society when there is call of death threats to a person who has a mental illness.
— Malik 🎈❓ (@abdulmalikmv) November 13, 2018
How many years of ignorance will it take for us to realize that mental illness is a reality and survivors need care and treatment not arrest and further torture? Islam teaches compassion and empathy. Not violence and anger.
— Ahmed Tholal🎈 (@Tholman_79) November 13, 2018
— Mickail Naseem 🎈 (@MickailNaseem) November 13, 2018
Release Velezinee now! You sick, sick people @PoliceMv!
— Eva Abdulla 🎈❓ (@evattey) November 13, 2018
All you need is a bit of humanity jump into this wagon, but apparently you lack that much even to call for the deportation of someone who is clearly mentally ill. With your lack of compassion who are you to decide what is best for anyone? https://t.co/QiM7P1De5W
— Isha🎈❓ (@ish_aa) November 13, 2018
My Kudatha married 9 ppl,some abused her,some just left since she couldn’t conceive children. Now,mentally ill.She sings, recites verses of quran,repeats dialogues from Mhd Rasoolallah. If she knew how to record&post videos, she’d do it too
Should we call for her arrest as well?
— Rilwan Latheef – Relay (@RilwanLatheef_) November 13, 2018
If one says Velizinee should not be arrested because she needs psychological care (a moral argument), isn't one actually giving legal grounds for an evaluation to determine as such?
Should there not be a debate on free speech, injury, blasphemy, apostasy, and citizenship? https://t.co/mty1Fi50Kz
— Azim Zahir (@aazimzahir) November 13, 2018
I call on the government of Maldives to provide Velzinee with the care she needs. Mental illness is a recognised medical condition. Those suffering needs care & support; not get arrested & jailed! https://t.co/D2ISHoAnjM
— Farah Didi 🎈 (@FarahDidi) November 13, 2018
— Ahmed Shaheed (@ahmedshaheed) November 13, 2018
I call upon the authorities to treat Valezine compassionately and to give her the help she needs.
Arresting a person should be a last resort measure & should be availed of only when all other options have been tried and exhausted @PoliceMv.
— Dhiyana 🎈 (@dhiyanasaid) November 13, 2018
In Islam the conditions of accountability are being an adult and being of sound mind. Those shiekhs who declared Velezinee Murthadhdhu are the same bunch who said if we don't vote for Yameen there would be no Islam in Maldives!
— DiDi (@didi) November 13, 2018
If we cannot take care of our most vulnerable such as those suffering from mental illness with fairness,justice,kindness & understanding what r we going 2 achieve as a civilized nation?Let us raise our voice against stigmatization& bullying of those suffering from mental illness
— Dr.Aishath Ali Naaz (@aishathalinaaz) November 13, 2018
My heart weeps. This is a sheikh of our religion. He's invalidating the struggles of thousands and thousands of maldivians who are seeking help for mental issues. First of all WHERE ARE ALL THE MENTAL CARE HEALTH HOSPITALS IN MALDIVES that provide endless therapy?Where are they? https://t.co/hXRhxDIhbE
— Zilvo (@Auralitica) November 13, 2018
Just when Velezine needs proper medical treatment & specialist counselling u go ahead & deliberately perform this inhumane & cruel deed. Are you human? How do u sleep nights? https://t.co/Bq5j0gAZYz
— Gahaa 🎈 (@AhmedSaeedGahaa) November 13, 2018
– There's no such institution here.
– Even if there was, it'd cost a kidney and a lung for treatment.
– There are exemptions in Islam with regard to commands/prohibitions if you're not of sound mind.
– Stop hiding under the veil of religion.
– Shut the fuck up. https://t.co/mCsB7llYUx
— Nashwa Saeed (@nutwa) November 13, 2018
It was narrated from 'Aishah that the Prophet said:
"The pen has been lifted from three:
From the sleeper until he wakes up, from the minor until he grows up,and from the insane until he comes back to his senses or recovers."
Reference : Sunan an-Nasa'i 3432
— Mohamed Muizz Adnan (@muizzadnan) November 13, 2018