May Day protester pleads guilty to assaulting police officer

A suspect on trial for assaulting a police officer during a mass anti-government protest on May 1 has pleaded guilty to assault charges today.

At the first hearing of the trial today, Mohamed Shinan, from the Malaaz house in Shaviyani Goidhoo, reportedly admitted kicking the Specialist Operation (SO) police officer twice. Shinan noted that he had confessed to the crime during the police interrogation.

Shinan also asked for leniency in his detention when chief judge Abdulla Mohamed asked the defendant if he had anything to add.

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 the SO officer and one man hitting the policeman over the head with his baton.

Sergeant Abdul Rahman Hussain was flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment after the assault while the police publicised video footage of the incident and appealed for public assistance in locating suspects.

The prosecutor general’s office has charged 13 people over the incident. The other defendants have been given time to appoint lawyers.

The assault charge carries a jail sentence of between three to five years.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had meanwhile accused police of torturing and threatening to kill three suspects arrested for assaulting the police officer.

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Trial begins for eight suspects accused of assaulting police officer

The trial of eight suspects accused of assaulting a police officer during a mass anti-government protest on May 1 began today.

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 a Specialist Operations (SO) officer and one man hitting the policeman over the head with his baton.

The seven male suspects and one female suspect were charged with assault. At the first hearing of the trial at the criminal court today, the presiding judge reportedly gave the defendants three days to appoint lawyers.

Sergeant Abdul Rahman Hussain had been flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment after the assault while the police publicised video footage of the incident and appealed for public assistance in locating suspects.

The police forwarded cases against 15 suspects for prosecution in late May.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had meanwhile accused police of torturing and threatening to kill three suspects arrested for assaulting the police officer.

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Thulhaadhoo council defies order to withhold pay for suspended councillor

The Thulhaadhoo island council has defied orders from the Local Government Authority (LGA) to withhold the monthly salary of a councillor suspended for attending a mass anti-government protest on May 1.

The council informed the LGA last week that the authority’s order was contrary to relevant laws and regulations. Unless a court of law rules otherwise, the Thulhaadhoo council said it would be following an “unconstitutional order” if it enforced the decision.

Thulhaadhoo council member Ziyau Rasheed Ibrahim was among several councillors suspended for two months without pay following their arrest from the May Day protest.

The council noted that Ziyau was no longer under arrest and that the constitution guarantees “fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value”.

The LGA’s chair, home minister Umar Naseer, had ordered the council secretariat not to pay Ziyau as he had been arrested from an “unlawful assembly.” Naseer had also asked the anti-corruption watchdog to penalise any councillors who had traveled to the capital on state funds.

According to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), some 300 of its 450 island and atoll councillors had taken part in the protest.

Ziyau told Minivan News today that he had taken a leave of absence and traveled to Malé with his own money.

“I support the decision made by the council as the LGA has no reason to suspend me,” he said.

Vice president of the Thulhaadhoo council, Ahmed Rasheed, said the council believed the provision the LGA referred to in its letter was irrelevant to Ziyau’s case.

The decision not to enforce the LGA order was approved unanimously.

LGA media officer Mohamed Azmeen said the Thulhaadhoo council’s decision will be addressed at the next board meeting due to take place on June 24 and suggested contacting the home minister for further details.

Naseer was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

However, Rasheed said the LGA has replied to the council’s letter, advising the council to challenge the legality of the order at court.

Ziyau meanwhile revealed that he is facing charges of obstruction of police duty.

“They have sent me a summons today asking me to attend court for a hearing on some charge against me. A second chit said I would be given further details at a meeting,” he said.

Earlier this month, MDP island and atoll councillors in Noonu atoll decided to chip in to pay the salary of suspended Holhudhoo councillor Hussain Habeeb.

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Court releases Sheikh Imran with travel ban

The criminal court has released Adhaalath Party (AP) president Sheikh Imran Abdulla from police custody with a ban on traveling overseas for one-month.

Imran was arrested from the mass anti-government protest on May 1 and accused of encouraging violence.

The criminal court had extended Imran’s remand detention twice, but ordered his release today with the last 10-day period due to expire tonight.

Speaking to the press upon his release from police custody, Imran said the May Day protest was a success because it had “forced” President Abdulla Yameen to initiate talks with the opposition.

“It was really because of the people who went to jail with us that we have achieved one of our main demands. The government was forced to come to the discussion table with political parties because of the large number of people who were there for the May 1 protest,” Imran said.

If the government is sincere, the allied opposition parties are ready to engage in dialogue to resolve the political crisis, he said.

Imran denied allegations inciting violence during his speeches on May 1, which police contend led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

“I have never encouraged anyone to create unrest, fear, harm anyone, at any time,” he said.

The police have forwarded cases against Imran, along with main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party chairperson Ali Waheed and Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim, for prosecution on charges of threatening and inciting violence.

Prior to Imran’s release, the president’s office reportedly rejected Imran as a representative of the AP for official talks with the government saying he was under police custody.

The president’s office’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Muaz, told Minivan News that the government will accept all representatives proposed by the allied opposition parties if there were no “legal, medical, physical, or administrative obstacles.”

Muaz declined to comment on whether the government would accept Imran as a representative for the talks following his release.

Remand appeal

Hours before Imran’s release, the high court overturned the criminal court’s May 17 ruling to keep Imran in police custody for 10 days.

The appellate court transferred Imran to house-arrest.

In a ruling this afternoon, judges noted that Imran has diabetes and that tests conducted following his arrest showed high levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and urine acidity.

A doctor had also recommended that Imran should not sleep on hard surfaces due to a spinal injury.

Imran’s lawyer, Ali Zahir, told local media that criminal court judge Ali Sameer had considered the high court ruling before releasing the AP leader.

The police had submitted a letter from the prosecutor general’s office to the court stating that Imran should be held in pre-trial detention, Zahir said.

Zahir said the PG office’s letter stated that the investigation had identified reasons for prosecution.

The police had already concluded its investigation and forwarded charges to the PG office.

Opposition alliance

After forming an alliance in March with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, senior members of the Jumhooree Party, and members of imprisoned ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s family, Imran had been at the forefront of ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ campaign.

The May Day rally – the largest protest in over a decade – was the second mass protest staged by the opposition calling for the release of former President Nasheed and Nazim.

Nearly 200 people were arrested from the May Day demonstration following a police crackdown after protesters attempted to enter the restricted Republic Square at dusk.

Two weeks after the historic protest, President Abdulla Yameen extended official invitations for separate talks with the allied opposition parties.

While the JP promptly accepted the invitation, the AP proposed Imran among its representatives and the MDP proposed imprisoned ex-President Nasheed.

The government has also rejected Nasheed as the MDP’s representative for the talks as the opposition leader is serving a 13-year jail term and ruled out negotiations for the release of Nasheed and Nazim.

The opposition alliance has meanwhile called for a third mass protest on June 12.

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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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Petition demands MP apologise for ‘discriminatory and bigoted’ tweets

An online petition has been launched calling for ruling party MP Riyaz Rasheed to publicly apologise for saying “islanders” will not be allowed to come to protest in Malé.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) estimates about 7,000 people traveled to the capital from across the country to participate in the May Day mass anti-government demonstration.

Raajje therey meehun [islanders] will no longer have the opportunity to come to Malé, protest on the streets of Malé, assault and harm police,” the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP for Thaa Vilifushi tweeted on Thursday.

“Islanders cannot come to protest in Malé anymore. The security forces will not give that opportunity anymore,” he tweeted yesterday.

Boatloads of opposition supporters converged on Malé on May 1 for the largest anti-government protest in over a decade.

Nearly 200 people were arrested following a police crackdown on the 20,000-strong protest march. Police used tear gas, stun grenades, pepper spray and baton charges to disperse protesters when they attempted to enter the restricted Republic Square. Dozens of protesters were injured in clashes and a Specialist Operations (SO) police officer was severely beaten.

The opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance has since announced that it is planning to stage another mass demonstration in Malé.

Riyaz’s tweets has sparked an outcry on social media with many Twitter users referring to constitutional rights to protest and travel within the Maldives.

However, the lawmaker remains defiant in the face of the public outrage, saying the constitutional provisions do not allow “arson and beating police.”

“No matter how angry MDP gets, islanders should not be allowed to come to protest and create turmoil in Malé,” the PPM parliamentary group deputy leader tweeted last night.

The controversy comes ahead of a by-election due to take place on June 6 for the vacant Dhiggaru constituency parliament seat. The PPM is fielding former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s son Faris Maumoon as the ruling coalition candidate.

The Avaaz petition was meanwhile launched yesterday and has 246 signatures as of the time of publication.

The petition urges Riyaz to “publicly apologise for his discriminatory and bigoted views against people who are not from Malé.”

It referred to articles 41 and 32 of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly and the right to travel within the Maldives.

“As a Member of Parliament, who is constitutionally obliged to advocate for the rights of ALL citizens, we believe MP Riyaz Rasheed’s views are completely unacceptable and abhorrent,” reads the petition.

According to the 2014 census, 39 percent of the Maldives’ 341,256 population resides in Malé, one of the world’s most densely populated cities.

In the past three decades, thousands of people from the atolls have migrated to the capital in search of jobs, better education and healthcare, making Malé a congested city of exorbitant rents.

The UNDP’s Human Development Index report released last year revealed stark inequalities between Malé and the rest of the country.

“Where one is born within the Maldives determines many of the opportunities and choices available to a person,” the report stated.

“Come to Male’ to pay rent and beg with ministers. Don’t come to Male’ for your rights!”

“Islanders should not come to Male’ for any other reason except paying rent.”

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Court issues arrest warrant for Gasim

The criminal court has reportedly issued an arrest warrant for Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim.

Local media reported last night that police had sought the warrant to arrest the business tycoon over allegations of funding the May Day anti-government mass rally.

The opposition MP and chairman of Villa Group is currently out of the country.

A police media official told Minivan News that police could not reveal information on arrest warrants for specific individuals.

“But we are seeking arrest warrants related to the May Day protest,” the official said.

Nearly 200 protesters were arrested from the 20,000-strong demonstration on May 1, including main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed, Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim.

The arrest warrant follows the tax authority freezing the bank accounts of several companies owned by Gasim over allegedly unpaid rent and fines. The government has, however, denied the opposition’s claim of unfairly targeting Gasim’s business interests.

A day before the May Day rally, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb accused Gasim of funding the protest “while hiding in Bangkok” and hiring Sheikh Imran under “a contract” to topple the government.

Gasim promptly denied the allegation in a tweet. He had reportedly traveled to Thailand ahead of the protest.

Imran and the other leaders of the allied opposition parties are being held in remand detention for 15 days. They are accused of inciting violence against the government during the May Day rally.

On May 1, opposition protesters called for the release of imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

JP spokesperson Ali Solih told Minivan News that the party has not been able to confirm if the warrant has been issued, but “we can’t say it won’t happen under the present circumstances.”

Solih accused the government of attempts to “intimidate” political opponents and “create fear among the public.”

He noted that Gasim’s support was crucial for president Abdulla Yameen’s victory in the 2013 presidential election.

“Is this is the reward for all the work Gasim did to bring this government?” he asked.

Following a fact finding mission last month, Amnesty International expressed concern with the “rapidly deteriorating” human rights situation in the Maldives.

“There’s a climate of fear spreading in the Maldives, as safeguards on human rights are increasingly eroded. The authorities have a growing track record of silencing critical voices by any means necessary – be it through the police, the judicial system, or outright threats and harassment,” Amnesty’s Maldives researcher Abbas Faiz told the press in New Delhi.

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Former MP Easa released from police custody

Former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Easa has been released from detention today amid allegations of mistreatment under police custody.

A police media official told Minivan News today that Easa’s family had requested permission to take the former MP overseas for a spinal cord operation. He was brought to ADK hospital for a doctor’s consultation and hospitalized last night.

The police authorised the medical leave after the family submitted a written recommendation from Easa’s doctor, the official said.

Easa was released from custody as police have determined that his prolonged detention “was no longer necessary for the investigation,” he added.

Easa was arrested from the mass anti-government protest on May 1 along with nearly 200 protesters. MDP chairperson Ali Waheed, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim were arrested later in the night.

The three leaders of the allied opposition parties remain under police custody while most other detainees have been released.

The MDP has accused police of beating Easa and other detainees after their arrest from the May Day protest.

The human rights watchdog is investigating cases of alleged police brutality and custodial abuse.

Easa was allegedly kicked and beaten on the head with batons after he was hauled on to the police vehicle. Minivan News journalists at the scene heard Easa scream from the vehicle packed with SO officers.

Easa was limping when he was brought to the remand hearing on Saturday.

Police have denied the allegations and suggested that lawyers and families file complaints at oversight bodies such as the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives.

Ali Waheed was meanwhile brought to the ADK hospital in Malé for treatment last night.

Ali Waheed was reportedly taken to hospital around 6:00pm for an MRI scan of his spinal cord, which was recommended by doctors who diagnosed his back pain. He was taken back to Dhoonidhoo detention centre around 7:45pm.

His family had previously said Waheed had been brought to Malé a week after the doctor requested the scans. The family has also expressed concern with police failing to provide medication for Waheed’s diabetes.

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Two Malé schools vandalized

Two schools in Malé were vandalized this week.

A group of people entered classrooms at Iskandhar School and Jamaluddin School on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively, and broke projectors and fans and sprayed paint on the walls, boards and desks.

“Someone tried to break a fan and a projector in one of the class room in the second floor, they would have done this late last night as we discovered what had happened only this morning,” said an official from Jamaaluddin school.

Police confirmed that security guards were present at the front gates of both schools at the time.

“But we cannot say it was due to their negligence, as there are other entrances where suspects could have used,” an official said.

No arrests have been made yet and the reason for the vandalism is unclear, police said.

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