The Criminal Court has heard testimony from five State witnesses against Afiya Mohamed Manik, V. Rakeedhoo, who is on trial for the murder of her son, Mohamed Ibthihaal.
Ibthihaal, 3, was found beaten to death at his home in Rakeedhoo on January 28, 2015.
His mother, Afiya, has been charged with homicide and disobedience.
The Criminal Court, this Tuesday morning, heard testimony from five State witnesses who reside in Rakeedhoo. They gave their testimony through video conference from Rakeedhoo Magistrate Court. The first two witnesses; Arifa Mohamed and Thahmeena Ibrahim were questioned by Senior Public Prosecutor Mariyam Thoifa from Rakeedhoo, and the other three witnesses; Shaheema Ibrahim, Hussain Muaz and Adam Samee were questioned by Senior Public Prosecutor Aishath Mohamed.
Afiya did not make use the opportunity given to her to cross examine any of the witnesses.
A LIFE OF ABUSE AND ISOLATION
The first to testify was Arifa Mohamed. She is Afiya’s cousin and had been employed at Rakeedhoo Health Center when Ibthihaal was found dead. She had been close to Ibthihaal, who had affectionately called her granny, and she, in turn, had affectionately called him ‘dhonbe’ – a name which most of the members of the small island community of Rakeedhoo had called him.
Arifa said that Afiya had discriminated between Ibthihaal and her other two children. She said that she often saw Afiya with her other children, but rarely saw her out in public with Ibthihaal. She said that Afiya, when asked about Ibthihaal’s whereabouts, would often respond that he was asleep.
Arifa recounted one time when Ibthihaal was brought in to Rakeedhoo Health Center with one of his eyes reddened. Afiya, when asked how it happened, responded that the eye had been red when he woke up.
According to Arifa, the house where Afiya resided with Ibthihaal, her husband, other children was often locked. She said that the family had spent most of their time behind closed doors. Arifa said that she entered the house on a day the doors were open, and found Ibthihaal wearing dirty diaper which was completely soaked. She asked permission from Afiya and took Ibthihaal to her own house to bathe him.
Arifa, when she removed Ibthihaal’s t-shirt in order to bathe him expressed pain by uttering the work “ouch”. Upon closer look, she found bruises on Ibthihaal’s elbow and more signs of injury on his back.
“When I asked who made the ‘ouch’ happen and if it was his mother, he nodded his head,” said Arifa.
She said that though she saw many signs of abuse, she never saw Afiya being physically abusive towards Ibthihaal.
She said that Afiya, when confronted, had told her she never laid a hand on him.
She said that Afiya always explained away Ibthihaal’s injuries with various excuses.
She recounted how once, when she asked about one of Ibthihaal’s ears being bruised, Afiya had said that Ibthihaal had inflicted it on himself by trying to lodge an object into his ear. She explained away a bruised elbow as an injury he sustained from another child and explained away an injury to his groin as something which had happened during his time staying with her mother.
Arifa had shared her concerns over the signs of abuse with the In-charge of Rakeedhoo Health Center, Hussain Muaz. She showed Muaz the injuries, and he took photographs of the injuries and alerted the Rakeedhoo Council President Adam Samee and Gender Ministry.
Arifa said that Ibthihaal, when asked whether he wished to return to his mother would sometimes burst into tears, but that he would voluntarily go to his father.
“The child would just sit in such sadness inside his house,” said Arifa, describing him.
Recounting the events of the day Ibthihaal was found dead, Arifa said that Afiya had fainted in front of the Rakeedhoo Health Center, and when she regained consciousness, had uttered “my eldest child”.
Arifa said that Ibthihaal was dead when she saw him next.
His body had been bare of clothing, and his forehead had been unnaturally soft almost as if it had been crushed, said Arifa.
She said that Ibthihaal also had bruises consistent with being strangled, and additional signs of injuries on his back.
“All lies”, responded Afiya at the end of her cousin’s testimony. She however declined to cross examine her.
The next witness was Thahmeena Ibrahim, a neighbor.
Thahmeena said that she once saw Afiya hitting Ibthihaal. She said that Ibthihaal would often appear scared of Afiya, and that Afiya would discriminate between Ibthihaal and her other two children, even going as far as to assign a separate seat for Ibthihaal inside the dining room separate from the rest.
Thahmeena, too, had seen Ibthihaal’s dead body. She said that Ibthihaal had injuries on his ears, and that his groin had been swollen.
Thahmeena’s testimony, too, was protested by Afiya. But she again, chose not to cross examine her.
The third to testify was Shaheema Ibrahim, another cousin. She said that on the day Ibthihaal was found dead, Afiya had been elsewhere, and she had been walking by their house when she heard the sound of a child weeping. She said that she tried to get into the house when she heard the weeping, but was unable to.
ABUSE REPORTED TO GENDER MINISTRY
Hussain Muaz, who had been serving as In-Charge of Rakeedhoo Health Center when Ibthihaal was found dead, said that the Rakeedhoo Council had been alerted to the signs of abuse prior to Ibthihaal’s death. And that the Gender Ministry was alerted when Ibthihaal was taken into the Rakeedhoo Health Center with signs of injury on December 28, 2014.
Muaz said that Ibthihaal had been sporting a swollen eye and ear on that occasion.
Rakeedhoo Council President Adam Samee said that he was alerted to the abuse by Muaz. He said that Ibthihaal had signs of injury on his eye, groin and back the day he was taken into the Rakeedhoo Health Center, and that photographs of the injuries were sent to Gender Ministry.
Several officials from Gender Ministry had been originally charged with negligence following Ibthihaal’s death.
Afiya had previously confessed to killing Ibthihaal and had reenacted how she beat Ibthihaal using a doll. She even confessed at trial, but on the hearing held on October 8, 2019, retracted the confession which she said she had made under duress by police officers who had threatened her with a knife. She said she never harmed Ibthihaal.