A leading atheist and human rights activist from the Maldives, Mohamed Rushtum Mujuthaba, fears imprisonment on charges of blasphemy at an upcoming court hearing on June 23rd, 2022. Mujuthaba was accused of making posts on social media that were critical of Islam.
Mujuthaba advocates for freedom of religion and human rights from the island of Thinadhoo, Maldives. He is known for pointing out the irrational and dangerous aspects of the religious texts, which has earned him the hatred of many.
On September 10th, 2019, Mujuthaba was accused under sections 617 and 622 of the penalcode of Maldives for posting blasphemous content against Islam on social media.
Mujuthaba was detained for more than six months without trial by the Maldivian authorities, in excess of his stipulated sentence, a clear violation of the international human rights law.
In confinement, he was subjected to inhuman treatment by the prison staff. He was punched in the chest, leaving him breathless and in agony for days. He wasn't provided with proper food and clothing and was told that the blasphemers were the greatest sinners. With the abysmal prison conditions of Maldives Correctional Services, he was put in a tiny cell that was about 64 sq. feet along with three other inmates. While living in unsanitary confinement that smelled of urine and defecation, several prisoners also attacked him.
The Maldivian Police performed psychological tests on Mujuthaba at various clinics to ascertain if he was mentally ill for his atheist and secularist views. The results of these examinations were as expected; Mujuthaba said, "the doctors knew that atheism wasn't a mental illness." He was also abused for not fasting during the month of Ramadan. He was even moved to a maximum-security unit in the death row section at one point.
In the Maldives, anyone can be accused of blasphemy for having a critical view of Islam. Many atheists have been attacked and even murdered in the past.
Following Mujuthaba's court appearance in May, his photo was leaked to the media, and he now faces numerous death threats by the Islamists.
Due to his case being religiously sensitive, Mujuthaba has been unable to find a lawyer for the upcoming trial. Without any choice, he now has to represent himself in court.
The rights to freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion are universal. Rusthum Mujuthaba is being punished for exercising his right to freedom of religion in the Maldives. Charges against him must be dropped immediately. @HuShameem @ibriffath https://t.co/h6gzn30UD9 pic.twitter.com/sYkMrJb86t
— Amnesty International South Asia (@amnestysasia) June 8, 2022
Mujuthaba has told Amnesty International that he was only "tweeting about women's rights, freedom of conscience and errors in religion, why it is wrong and why it must not be forced on anyone. They had all the tweets printed. It was nearly 6,000 tweets,"
Amnesty International has urged the Maldivian authorities to "immediately drop the charges against Mohamed Rusthum Mujuthaba." and added, "The actions against Mohamed Rusthum Mujuthaba contravenes international human rights law including the ICCPR."
In 2006 Maldives acceded to ICCPR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty that commits states parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The country's constitution still prohibits the right to freedom of expression that is "contrary to any tenet of Islam."