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Meedhoo Azi - veteran torture victim dies
Maldives Culture, March 2003

Abdul Aziz Mohamed, better known as Meedhoo Azi, died in Malé recently after suffering for over a decade and a half from the effects of severe torture. He was one of the first torture victims of the Gayyoom government.

Azi served as a public prosecutor and member of the People's Majlis (parliament). In the early 1980s he began questioning the regime's sincerity. During an annual budget debate Meedhoo Azi asked for more details about proposed expenditure for the presidential household and the National Security Service (NSS). He was arrested and charged with sedition, and remanded in the Dhoonidhoo detention centre, just north of Malé.

Azi was later acquitted of all charges, after a High Court appeal in which he eloquently defended himself, citing the rights of elected members of the Majlis to ask questions regarding government expenditure. The Maldives High Court was still impartial then, and did not appear to give in to government orders. Azi was a majlis member for his native Dhaalu Atoll.

Soon after his acquittal, Ilyas Ibrahim ordered Azi's re-arrest. Ilyas (one of the wealthiest men in Maldives and a close brother of the president's wife, Nasreena) was then Deputy Minister of Defence and National Security, and Deputy Commander in Chief of the NSS. Meedhoo Azi went back to Dhoonidhoo facing the same charges for which he had already been acquitted. In Dhoonidhoo jail, he was tortured out of his wits. By the time of his release, Meedhoo Azi was reduced to a physical and mental cripple. He died of the effects of torture after being incapacitated for over a decade and a half.

President Maumoon Gayyoom and leading members of his government attended Meedhoo Azi's funeral. There were also a large number of public mourners.

The only notable absence was Abdulla Hameed, President Gayyoom's brother and Minister of Atolls Administration and Speaker of the People's Majlis. Evidently someone telephoned Abdulla Hameed to inform him of Azi's death, and Hameed hung up without saying a word. Mr Hameed allegedly laid the original complaint against Azi for which he was arrested and tortured.

It is still unclear why Meedhoo Azi's funeral attracted such official and public attention.

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