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May Day protest pickup driver faces terrorism charges

The prosecutor general’s (PG) office has filed terrorism charges against the driver of a pickup that broke through police lines during the mass anti-government protest on May 1.

The pickup used at the protest drove through barricades and the line of Specialist Operations (SO) police officers at high speed and was stopped near the Islamic centre.

The police said at the time that the driver was instructed and paid by protest organisers to break through the police lines.

The police have also forwarded cases to the PG office against main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed, Adhaalath Party president Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim, and JP senior member Sobah Rasheed.

The PG office media official told Minivan News today that it has not determined whether to press charges against the opposition leaders.

The leaders of the allied parties are accused of inciting violence in their speeches during the demonstration, which police contend led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

With the exception of Imran, the others had exercised the right to remain silent during the police interrogation. The three were arrested in the wake of the May Day protest, while Sobah Rasheed was arrested from a street protest on May 3.

Imran, Ali Waheed remain in police custody after the criminal court extended their remand detention for a second time on Saturday.

Ameen was released by the High Court last week after the appellate court overturned the criminal court’s 15-day remand detention order.

The High Court, however, upheld the lower court’s order to hold Imran and Ali Waheed in custody. The pair has appealed the High Court’s ruling at the Supreme Court.

Nearly 200 protesters were arrested in a police crackdown on the May Day demonstration after protesters attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square at dusk.

The police have since banned the use of four-wheeled vehicles during street protests.

According to local media, the PG office has not pressed charges against the driver’s wife and another protester on the pickup. The case against the driver was reportedly filed at the criminal court on Tuesday.

Of the 193 protesters arrested on May 1, the PG office had previously said that cases of 98 protesters have been sent to the committee reviewing first time offenders.

“That means we will press charges against only about 30 people. That includes repeated offenders and the people suspected of attacking police officers at the protest,” PG Muhthaz Muhsin told the press on Sunday.

The pickup driver is the only protester facing terrorism charges, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. The other protester face charges of disobedience to order and obstruction of police duty.

Scores of protesters and some police officers were injured during violent clashes on the night of May 1. Video footage shows protesters tripping and kicking an SO officer and one man hitting the policeman over the head with his baton.

Some 14 people have since been arrested on suspicion of assaulting the officer, who was flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment.

On Tuesday, police appealed for public assistance in locating three more suspects: Abdulla Mufeed, Ahmed Miudhaan Hameed and Ahmed Unais.

The MDP has accused police of torturing and threatening to kill three suspects arrested for assaulting the police officer.

Other May Day detainees have also alleged that police beat them after their arrest from the protest, but police have denied the allegations and advised lawyers and families to file complaints at independent oversight bodies.

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