Jennifer Latheef, a photographer with the daily Minivan News and a human rights activist, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 18 October for a supposed “terrorist act,” of throwing a stone at a policeman during a demonstration in Malé on 20 September against the death of five prisoners while being tortured. Five other protesters were given long jail sentences.
She has denied throwing any stones and said she was at the demonstration gathering information about victims of repression. However, the courts, controlled by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, accepted the prosecution’s arguments, including contradictory police evidence. Her father, Mohamed Latheef, is the main leader of the democratic opposition and is in exile in Sri Lanka.
Latheef, 32, is being held in a dirty prison cell on the islet of Maafushi. Eye-witnesses say the toilets do not work and the water provided is not drinkable. Her sister reports that Latheef is in shock at the long sentence. She had already been taken to hospital in early October because of stress caused by her trial.
Two other journalists, and a cyberdissident, are in prison in the Maldives and a dozen more are being prosecuted for supposed terrorism or violating the press laws. Minivan News is a major target, as the only paper openly critical of President Gayoom’s regime. Its printer has refused to handle it since August because of threats by the authorities.
For more about Jennifer Latheef and press freedom in the Maldives, see: