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Government Minister Accused of Using Witchcraft to Challenge President

August 18, 1993

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A minister in the Maldives government has been accused of using witchcraft to challenge his brother-in-law, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Illyas Ibrahim was fired on Monday and fled to Singapore, Maldivian diplomats said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The charges against Ibrahim were not immediately disclosed, but the diplomats said a trial would begin this week. He will be tried in absentia.

Two weeks ago, police in the capital, Male, arrested Don Didi, a Maldivian woman accused of performing black magic at Ibrahim’s home to win over members of parliament who will nominate a presidential candidate this month. Details of the rites were not immediately known.

Gayoom has ruled the Maldives for 15 years without allowing an organized opposition or multiparty elections.

The Maldives is a tiny Indian Ocean archipelago of more than 1,190 islands. Only 220 of the islands, 360 miles southeast of Sri Lanka, are inhabited.

The parliament, or Majlis, was scheduled to nominate a single presidential candidate. The nominee then faces a referendum.

Ibrahim was reported to be canvassing for support among the 51 members in parliament. He was Minister in the President’s Office, but did not have any specific portfolio or title.

Amnesty International said this month that more than 35 political prisoners have been detained since 1990 in the Maldives. The London-based human rights organization said some were arrested in March 1990 for distributing leaflets alleging vote-rigging during 1989 parliamentary elections.

Gayoom was first elected in 1978 and re-elected twice, both times uncontested. He survived a coup attempt in 1989 after calling in the Indian army.

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