116 May Day detainees released, 129 facing charges

Some 116 people out of a 193 arrested from an antigovernment protest on May 1 have now been released, but the police is seeking charges against some 129 individuals.

The Prosecutor General (PG) office says it is researching the police’s claims, and will decide on prosecution shortly. Protesters face charges of disobedience to order and obstruction of police duty, offences that carry a MVR 3000 fine or six-month jail term.

Approximately 20,000 protesters took to the streets on May 1, demanding the release of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. But violent clashes erupted when protesters attempted to enter Malé’s main Republic square at dusk.

Police used tear gas, pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse protesters. Two police officers were also beaten by protesters resulting in indiscriminate arrests.

Meanwhile, police arrested two men, including Jumhooree Party council member Ali Hameed, from a street protest last night. The two were released within a few hours.

Police say the opposition’s protests must not disrupt public order, and have said the opposition must seek prior permission before organizing demonstrations, despite the constitution saying no prior notice is needed.

May Day arrests

Opposition leaders – Adhaalath party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed and Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim – were also arrested on May Day.

The arrests are the largest from a single protest in a decade. MDP lawyers say detainees were kept in packed cells and were denied medical treatment. Lawyers also said three men arrested on suspicion of beating a police officer were brutalized.

The criminal court granted a blanket 15-day remand for 173 of the 193 arrested. Some 20 women were released after police failed to present them at court within the required 24 hours. Opposition leaders were also remanded for 15 days.

Lawyers have lodged complaints with the high court over the criminal court’s decision to remand all 173 protesters. Appeal hearings over the remand of Imran, Waheed and Ameen have concluded. But the high court has not specified when a verdict will be issued.

Meanwhile, a ninth suspect in the beating of the police officer handed himself in last night. All nine have been remanded for 15 days.