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Maldives minister arrested for performing ‘black magic’ on President Muizzu

Police in the Maldives have arrested a state environment minister, officers said on Thursday, with media in the Indian Ocean nation reporting she was accused of performing “black magic” on the president.

State Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Energy, Fathimath Shamnaz Ali Saleem, was arrested on Sunday along with two others in the capital Male, police said.

She has been remanded in custody for a week pending investigations, officers added, without giving details for her arrest.

“There have been reports that Shamnaz was arrested for performing black magic on President Dr Mohamed Muizzu,” said the Sun, a local media outlet.

Police would neither confirm nor deny the report.

Her position is an important job in a nation on the front lines of the climate crisis, with UN environment experts warning rising seas could make it virtually uninhabitable by the end of the century.

Sorcery is not a criminal offence under the penal code in the Muslim-majority Maldives, but it does carry a six-month jail sentence under Islamic law.

People across the archipelago widely practice traditional ceremonies, believing they can win favours and curse opponents.

A 62-year-old woman was stabbed to death by three neighbours on Manadhoo in April 2023 after she was accused of conducting black magic ceremonies, the Mihaaru news site reported last week, after a lengthy police investigation.

It quoted police as saying that they had failed to find any evidence the murder victim performed sorcery.

In 2012, police cracked down on an opposition political rally after accusing organisers of throwing a “cursed rooster” at officers raiding their offices.