A group of men, including an imam, were arrested in Alif Alif atoll Maalhos on Thursday after photos and videos emerged of the seven engaged in homosexual activity.
An islander who spoke on condition of anonymity told Minivan News a group of teenagers from the island came upon the video CDs in the house of one of the suspects. When the CDs began to be circulated in public, the “island elders” alerted police.
“It came as a big shock to everyone on the island to see that [the imam] was one of them. He gives the Friday sermons at the mosque every week,” he said. “He is a well respected person on the island and we saw him as our religious leader.”
Besides the imam, the pornographic videos featured a mosque caretaker, a carpenter and another man the islanders believe to be mentally unstable, the islander claimed.
“He is a deranged person. We have always seen him running around the island naked,” he said.
Of the three men not featured in the video, two were incriminated in photos found along with the videos, he continued, while the third was believed to have filmed the pornography.
Three of the suspects were married with children, the islander said, while one of them included a second, retired imam. The youngest of the seven men was aged 27, while the rest were over 45 years of age, he said.
Miadhu reported other islanders as claiming that two of the seven men consider themselves “as husband and wife.”
Sergeant Ahmed Shiyam from the Maldives Police Service confirmed the arrests were made on Thursday following a report from the islanders. The seven men are currently in police custody. All were residents of Maalhos.
A spokesperson for the Islamic Ministry said they were not yet aware of the case and could not speculate on any measures that could be taken. Meanwhile Abdullah bin Mohamed Ibrahim, President of Islamic NGO Salaf Jamiya, also said he was unable to comment as they did not have complete information on the case.
Under the existing penal provisions, the punishment for sodomy is 19 to 39 lashes, banishment or imprisonment of up to three years.
Another islander from Maalhos who spoke to Minivan News said a group of people had become suspicious of the seven men before the videos came out.
“They have been following them around for a long time now,” he said. “They were suspicious before, and the videos just confirmed it.”