The Criminal Court has conditioned the release of 33 opposition protesters arrested last week on their staying home from further protests for 60 days.
Human Rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has described the move as unconstitutional, arguing the condition violated the right to freedom of assembly and expression.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Fayyaz Ismail was remanded for additional 15 days when he refused the Criminal Court’s condition on Saturday.
Supporters have commended Fayyaz’s “bravery,” and called on protesters to follow his example.
I Salute MP Fayyaz For Refusing To Give Up His Constitutional Right To Free Assembly & Speech. #DefendTheConstitution
— Miuvan #FreeAnni (@Miuvaan) March 7, 2015
MDN Executive Director Shahindha Ismail said a fundamental right could only be limited by a law passed through the People’s Majlis.
“This is not a limitation of rights, but a violation of [the detainee’s] rights to assembly, expression, and free will,” she said.
“The Court can enforce conditions on detainees to ensure a person’s attendance in court. For example, having to obtain a permit from the court when travelling. However, they cannot place a condition asking them to not go to a protest,” she said.
According to the Maldives Police Services, a total of 77 individuals have been arrested from opposition protests since February 27. If individuals released with conditions are seen at protests, the police will take action, a spokesperson said.
The opposition continues to hold nightly protests demanding the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, imprisoned ahead of a trial on terrorism charges over the military detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
The opposition leader has denied ordering the judge’s arrest. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.
The MDP in February allied with former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) against what they call President Abdulla Yameen’s repeated breaches of the Constitution.
Nasheed was arrested on Februrary 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin alleged he may abscond from the unannounced terrorism trial scheduled for the next day.
Police arrested 26 individuals on March 6 alone. In addition to Fayyaz, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz and former MP Ilyas Labeeb were arrested.
Two journalists from Villa TV and CNM were also briefly detained for allegedly obstructing police duties.
Of the 26 arrested, 21 were brought for remand hearings the next day. The Criminal Court released 18 on the condition they do not participate in further protests.
Shahindha, who also served as the President of the Police Integrity Commission from 2009 to 2012, accused police of using disproportionate force in making arrests, using pepper spray at close range and verbal abuse.
“This is not humane treatment at all, and should not be allowed. The police are reverting back to old times by being brutal and forceful,” she said.
The former police integrity commissioner also expressed concern at reports of police officers refusing to use any identification at protests.
“The alleged reasoning behind this is to prevent personal attacks against individual officers,” said Shahindha. “But there should be some sort of identity on the individuals so independent commissions will be able to hold them accountable, even if it’s a number code.”
She also claimed police were setting up barricades and closing down streets at random. Barricades had been set up outside of green zones in which protests are prohibited.
The police have banned protests near the Malé City Hall until March 15, claiming businesses in the area had been complaining over protesters allegedly disrupting business.
The PIC and Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) must investigate alleged violations, Shahindha said.
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