IS propaganda videos found on terror suspect Ameen’s hard drive

Terror suspect Mohamed Ameen speaks at a hearing held on September 29, 2021, at the Supreme Court.

The prosecution states that Islamic State propaganda videos were found hidden on a hard drive linked with the man police believe to be the leader of the Maldivian faction of the international terror organization, and that it was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) of the United States for further analysis.   

Mohamed Ameen, Kariyya Villa, Maadhadu, Fuvahmulah City, was on trial at the Criminal Court on charges of membership at a terror organization and conspiracy to carry out an act of terror when he won a petition to dismiss the charges against him with the High Court in September. 

The decision was appealed by the Prosecutor General’s Office with the Supreme Court, which overturned the decision and ordered the Criminal Court to rehear the case in October. 

He was subsequently rearrested. 

At the hearing on Monday morning, the Criminal Court heard testimony from two state witnesses who had been involved in analyzing some of the hard drives police seized as evidence against Ameen. 

One of the witnesses was Sub-inspector Ibrahim Zuhair, who was involved in preparing the computer forensic report on the hard drives. 

Zuhair testified that hidden files were found on the hard drive of a laptop taken to the police digital evidence lab. He said that the files included IS propaganda videos. Segments of eight of the videos were shown at the court during Monday’s hearing. 

All the videos had the IS logo in a corner, and some even had the logo of AlHayat Media Center – the media wing of the Islamic State. Some of the videos were dubbed in Dhivehi language. 

The defense raised doubts over the chain of custody of the evidence seized by police. 

Zuhair responded that the police digital lab did not have the capacity to recover some of the files on the hard drive at the time, and that the hard drive was sent “somewhere else”. 

While Zuhair did not state that the hard drive was sent to the FBI, it became evident from later statements by the public prosecutor. 

The defense argued that the prosecution had submitted new evidence – which had not been submitted during the original trial. However, the public prosecutor said that analysis report on the hard disk had been submitted during the original trial, and that it was sent to the FBI for further analysis. 

Ameen is suspected of involvement in the Sultan’s Park bombing which injured a dozen tourists in 2007. He fled the country after the bombing, prompting an Interpol red notice against him.  

He was arrested from neighboring Sri Lanka and brought to Maldives in 2012 but released by the court after two months of detainment.  

He was rearrested in 2019 – under suspicion of spreading radical extremist ideologies and recruiting and dispatching people for jihad in other countries. He was charged with membership at a terrorist organization and conspiracy to carry out an act of terrorism. 

US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has Ameen flagged as a senior operative of IS, making him the first Maldivian national to be named on the OFAC’s terror list.  

According to the US, Ameen was actively engaged in leading IS recruitment in Maldives. He is also accused of assisting the IS branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan by providing funding, assists and technological support.  

He is the first person to be arrested and charged under the new revisions to the Counter-Terrorism Act.