Safari case: Police accused of tampering with victim’s statement, reported for misconduct

Maldives Police Service headquarters. ((File Photo/Sun/Ihthisham Mohamed)

Legal representatives for the victim of a sexual assault which took place on board a safari vessel off the coast of Hulhumale’ in June have accused the police investigators working on the case of tampering with the victim’s statement, and reported them to the National Integrity Commission (NIC) for misconduct.

One of the victim’s lawyers, Shafeea Riza shared a video of investigative officers discussing altering the victim’s statement and mocking the lawyers via Twitter on Sunday evening.

Shafeea told Sun that the video was recorded and shared accidently by the police while attempting to share a statement.

“What happened was, we took a break in the middle of a session, after they said they were going to show us the transcript video statement they took on September 13 within three minutes via screen share. The three-minute break turned into a 20-minute break. And they accidently sent the conversation they had during this time,” she said.

Shafeea stressed that the victim’s statement should be her own account, and should not be tampered with by the police in any way.

“They cannot tamper with the victim’s statement. It must be as she tells it and in whichever language she tells it in. Therefore, they cannot make the seen unseen, and add or omit bits and parts as they wish.  The police are entrusted to protect the rights of the victims, to represent their interests. Those remarks regarding the lawyers and talk regarding tampering with the victim’s statement is clear evidence of the intention of the police in this case,” she said.

Shafeea said that the lawyers have asked for a meeting with the investigative officer in charge of the sexual assault case with respect to the conversation caught on video, and have reported the case to NIC for gross misconduct.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Abdul Mannaan Yoosuf had said in a press conference in July that the police had collected enough evidence to prosecute, and that the police with complete the investigation and forward the case to the Prosecutor General’s Office for charges “in no time”.

However, Shafeea said that based on the pace at which the investigation is progressing, the lawyers are uncertain as to when the police will manage to complete the investigation.

"The investigation has been ongoing since June. The video statement taken on September 13 – it took one month to have the statement typed out in English. I can’t say when for certain, but the police say the investigation will be complete soon,” she said.

The sexual assault was reported to the police at approximately 05:00 am on June 26, after police officers on patrol in Hulhumale’ found a woman and two men at the Hulhumale’ jetty, and questioned them.

According to the police, the woman - identified as a 27-year-old woman of foreign nationality - initially told the patrolling police officers that the two men - identified as two 39-year-old local men - had confiscated her phone and were refusing to hand it back to her.

However, upon further questioning, she told the police officers that she had gone to a safari boat off Hulhumale’ at the invitation of a friend on June 25, and had spent time with the two men on board the boat, and that they groped her without her consent and sexually assaulted her.

She told the police she had jumped overboard for fear they may continue their assault, and that they had come after her on a dinghy boat, pulled her out of the water, and then took her to the jetty.

The police arrested the suspects on the spot, but later released them within hours.