The recent arrest of Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) council members over “slanderous allegations” have increased political tensions in Male’, prompting a series of opposition led protests.
The Vice President of Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Dr Mohamed Jameel and council member Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Ibrahim Didi was repeatedly summoned to the police headquarters and interrogated in the past four nights, after the President’s Office requested a police investigation into “slanderous” statements made by the pair, alleging the government was working under the influence of “Jews” and “Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.
Following the arrest of Jameel lastnight, the DQP supporters gathered outside the police headquarters around 8:00pm calling for his immediate release.
Similar confrontations took place when DQP council member Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Ibrahim Didi was briefly detained on Thursday. Didi was released shortly after the Criminal court instructed the police to bring him to the court.
Former Justice Minister was transferred to Dhoonidhoo detention center located on a nearby island, but later brought ahead of the Criminal court where his lawyers team contested the legality of the arrest and won his release.
Meanwhile, verbal and sometimes physical confrontations continued till midnight near the Justice Building, where criminal court is located.
Crowds also gathered outside the residence of Home Minister Hassan Afeef, threw eggs and called for the minister’s resignation on allegations of influencing the police to take measures against DQP members.
Roads leading to President Mohamed Nasheed’s residence Muleaage meanwhile was blocked by the security forces to stop the protestors from moving any closer.
However, the protest outside the Justice Building heated up when a group of pro government or ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists gathered, directly resulting in clashes with opposition protesters and police officers attempting to control the crowds.
While MDP activist called for the arrest of Jameel and other opposition members making “slanderous” claims about the government, opposition continued to hail DQP members as “heroes”, and calling for their immediate release.
Police dispersed the crowds with tear gas and detained couple of protestors, who were later released.
DQP vows to sue
Meanwhile, DQP has announced that the party will sue the government and the police over the “unlawful” detention of its council members.
However, speaking to the press on Monday, Dr Hassan Saeed, DQP president and lawyer representing Didi and Dr Jameel, claimed the party has “evidence to prove they were arrested and treated unlawfully”.
He said the party intends to sue “everyone” involved in the arrest, including Home Minister Hassan Afeef and individual police officers who signed off the arrest warrant.
“We will sue [them] in big numbers,” said Dr Saeed, who left the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) coalition shortly after it came to power in 2008.
Referring to the Home Minister Afee’s interview to the media outlets regarding the police investigations, Dr Saeed argued that Afeef is acting outside the legal boundaries by interfering with the police investigations.
“The Home Minister is only supposed to answer the parliament on behalf of the police. [He] does not have any power besides policy making. [He] cannot say which cases must be investigated, who must be arrested or whose detention should be increased,” Dr Saeed asserted.
Dr Saeed claimed the investigating officers have confided that they were “pressured by the government” to interrogate and arrest DQP lead members.
“They [police officers] even apologised to us repeatedly,” Dr Saeed claimed, adding that the government is “destroying a young educated police force for personal gain”.
He also alleged President Mohamed Nasheed of using “police, defence force numbers and weapons” to maintain power and enforce policies.
Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair meanwhile told Minivan News on Monday that “we welcome any court action against the government”.
Zuhair insisted that the government wants to clear its name from the “slanderous” claims before the next election in 2013.
“We are saying it’s enough now,” Zuhair asserted. “All they need to do is tell the police who the Christian priest is. How much he is getting from the government. Under which account the money is deposited. And where they are getting this information from”.
Defend Article 27
Meanwhile, the opposition parties have decided to hold a rally on Monday night, to “defend article 27 “which states “everyone has the right to freedom of thought and the freedom to communicate opinions and expression in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam”.
DRP official was quoted in the local media saying that the rally is organised because the government is “sabotaging the freedom of expression granted under the constitution by arresting opposition leaders and threatening the media”.
Press Secretary however insists that the “government will be patient to the right freedom of expression and freedom of assembly”.
He also refuted claims of government influence over the police, saying that the “police are absolutely impartial”.