Police deny tampering with sexual assault victim’s statement

Maldives Police Service, in a statement on Monday, denied allegations made by legal representatives for the victim of a sexual assault on board a safari vessel off Hulhumale’ in June that police investigators working on the case attempted to tamper with the victim’s statement.

The lawyers have accused the investigative officers of mocking the lawyers and attempting to alter the victim’s statement, and have reported them to the National Integrity Commission (NIC) for gross misconduct.

They shared a clip of an accidental video recording of the investigative officers discussing the victim’s statement via Twitter on Sunday evening, sparking widespread public condemnation against the police.

In a two-page statement on Monday afternoon, the police said the video clip was of investigative officers discussing among themselves while drafting a statement based on a recording of an interview with the victim taken via Skype.

The police denied making any alterations to the victim’s statement.

“We state that remarks by the victim’s lawyers on social media implying that alterations were made to the victim’s statement are absolutely untrue,” said the police.

The police said that it is standard procedure for investigative officers to discuss among themselves to further clarify and ascertain what’s said during interviews when investigating cases. And that it is standard procedure for the police to draft statements based on the answers provided by interviewees.

“This does not constitute tampering with statements taken for investigation,” said the police.

The police said that the victims and their lawyers given opportunity to check and make necessary changes to statements drafted by the police based on interviews.

“And especially, under the guidelines for online interviews which are currently in practice, soft copies of statements of interviewees are emailed to them after they are typed so they can make the changes they wish,” said the police.

The police said that the lawyers were provided access to the video clip for the purposes of the investigation, and expressed concern that the video clip was publicly shared given it contains information regarding the experience the victim was subjected to.

“We find the public release of the video in this manner to be an act which further violates the rights of the victim,” said the police.

The police described the public release of the video clip as an “uncivilized act” designed to have the public lose their trust in the police by making false allegations that besmirch the reputation of the police.

Noting the lawyer’s decision to lodge a formal complaint with the NIC over the case, the police said they will provide their full cooperation to the commission for its investigation.

The sexual assault was reported to the police at approximately 05:00 am on June 26, after police officers on patrol in Hulhumale’ found a woman and two men at the Hulhumale’ jetty, and questioned them.

According to the police, the woman - a 27-year-old Kenyan woman - initially told the patrolling police officers that the two men - identified as two 39-year-old local men - had confiscated her phone and were refusing to hand it back to her.

However, upon further questioning, she told the police officers that she had gone to a safari boat off Hulhumale’ at the invitation of a friend on June 25, and had spent time with the two men on board the boat, and that they groped her without her consent and sexually assaulted her.

She told the police she had jumped overboard for fear they may continue their assault, and that they had come after her on a dinghy boat, pulled her out of the water, and then took her to the jetty.

The police arrested the suspects on the spot, but later released them within hours.