Legal Politics

Velizinee’s arrest creates controversy

The arrest of former Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member Aishath Velizinee last Tuesday has created controversy.

Velizinee, who had been living in self-exile, returned to the Maldives last Tuesday. And was promptly arrested by authorities under court order.

In 2017, Ministry of Islamic Affairs declared Velizinee an apostate. And on May 23, 2017, Maldives Police Service issued a public summons asking Velizinee to present herself for questioning within 14 days.

Public opinion is divided over Vilizinee’s arrest. Many had demanded her immediate arrest after news of her return from exile broke, and many, who describe Velizinee as “mentally unstable”, criticized the MPS for its decision to arrest her.

Those opposed to Velizinee’s arrest includes some high-profile politicians, including the North Galolhu MP Eva Abdulla who had demanded for Velizinee’s immediate release.

Former Attorney General Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed asked for MPS to treat Velizinee compassionately and provide her with the help she needs.

Medical doctors have urged authorities to take mental assessments of suspects who may possibly be suffering mental illnesses before they carry out arrests.

Psychiatrist Dr. Mohamed Arif said authorities need to carry out a mental assessment of Velizinee and provide her with sufficient mental health care if necessary.

“No one can be deemed as an ‘apostate’ without ensuring they are in a fit state of mind!” wrote Arif on his Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Islamic scholar Sheikh Ali Zaid said Velizinee needs to be accountable for her actions, and that mental illness wasn’t an excuse.

“Using the excuse of “mental, mental” when the religion of Islam is besmirched is unacceptable. [She] is stable otherwise,” said Zaid.

Many have also criticized Zaid’s statement, arguing that a person is only considered an apostate if he/she renounces the religion of Islam of his/her own volition, and a person who is genuinely mentally ill cannot be held liable for any actions which may be influenced by his/her mental illness.

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