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Maldives / United Kingdom 20 August 2005

ISP systems manager freed after five weeks in detention

Reporters Without Borders has learned that Ismail Faiz, the Maldivian ISP systems manager who was arrested on 1 May, was released on 6 June without the government ever clearly explaining why he was detained. The charges against him changed several times. He was initially accused of working with the Dhivehi Observer, a London-based website that is banned in the Maldives. He was later accused of links with the militant group Jamatul Muslimeen. Faiz is the systems manager of his country’s sole ISP, Dhiraagu, which is 45 per cent owned by Cable & Wireless of the UK.


10.05.2005

A Cable and Wireless employee detained in the Maldives

System engineer Ismail Faiz of the country’s sole Internet service provider, Dhiraagu - of which British firm Cable & Wireless holds 45 % of the capital - was arrested and detained on 1st May 2005.

Although he is officially accused of "terrorism", "incitement to violence" and "attempting to overthrow the government", he is reportedly really being held for working with the London-based opposition website Dhivehi Observer. Reporters Without Borders urged Cable & Wireless to contact the Maldives authorities to investigate what has happened to their employee.

"Accusations of terrorism are often used in the Maldives to punish dissidents" said the organisation "This engineer is paying the price for President Gayoom’s paranoia in connection with the Internet, a media he cannot manage to control and on which he is widely criticised."

"It seems to us that the management of Cable & Wireless should be concerned about the plight of its employee."

Local sources said he had apparently been accused of working with Dhivehi Observer (http://www.dhivehiobserver.com/), a website that is banned in the Maldives. Its editor, known under the pen-name Sappe, however denied having any contact with Faiz. But he said, "The president is afraid of the Internet because now, whatever he does, we make him face up to his responsibilities."

"That is the reason he attacks a service provider. It has nothing to do with any struggle against terrorism." Sappe said he believed that the engineer had fallen foul of the authorities because he refused to carry out technical tasks he was given, such as filtering foreign-based websites.

Ismail Faiz, 29, is system engineer and administrator of Dhiraagu, whose two main shareholders are the Maldives government and British telecoms giant Cable & Wireless. Reporters Without Borders wrote to Cable & Wireless’s CEO, Francesco Caio, to question him about the ethical problems raised by his company’s investment in the Internet in the Maldives, a country that censors the web and has imprisoned several cyberdissidents (See: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10996).

Ismail Faiz is being held in solitary confinement. His family was only allowed to visit him eight days after his arrest.

Local sources said that another Dhiraagu employee, Mohamed Zahid, who was working for a branch of the firm on Feydhoo Island, in the south of the country, was reportedly imprisoned on the same day as Faiz, perhaps for the same reasons. No additional information about his case has been forthcoming from the authorities.




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Generally good climate for presidential election marred by public TV’s bias in favour of incumbent
23 January - Maldives
Opposition website’s reporter expelled, banned for two years
5 December - Maldives
Open letter to the Information Minister, Mohamed Nasheed
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19 August - Maldives
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