Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz has claimed that certain actions performed by protesters in the recent demonstrations in Male’ could be defined as acts of terrorism.
The recent protests in the capital have seen supporters of former President Nasheed clash with riot police, resulting in multiple arrests and damage to police property.
Nawaz told Minivan News on Monday (February 18) that certain acts performed by protesters over the last few days – including setting fire to a police vehicle – “could be classed as terrorism”.
“It is not that we [Maldives Police Service (MPS)] are directly saying it was terrorism, but more the setting fire to a police vehicle and barricade, as well as threatening phone calls to officers, could be defined under terrorism.
“We always ask protesters not to opt for violence, it doesn’t matter which party they belong to. I personally believe things should not have happened like they have been recently,” Nawaz added.
Superintendent Nawaz, who is also Head of Public Affairs Department, stressed that while the police welcomed peaceful protests, demonstrations over the last three days have not always remained that way.
Asked whether police would have to respond differently to tackle “actions that would be defined as terrorism”, Nawaz said: “From the torching of a vehicle to protesters throwing stones and bottles at police, of course police will have to act differently depending on how serious the crime is”.
On Saturday night (February 16) a police vehicle belonging to the Police Family and Child Protection Department was set on fire while parked in Male’.
Police also claimed protesters set fire to a police barricade in the early hours of Sunday (February 17) morning.
Following the recent protests, a statement from MPS released today announced that the Criminal Court had issued warrants for the arrest of 16 individuals allegedly involved in the “unrest and mob violence” in the recent protests of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
A police press briefing revealed that a total of 84 people, including two minors and four females, had been taken into police custody following the unrest.
Out of 61 individuals later presented to the court, 16 were allowed to remain in police custody in order to continue with the investigation.
According to the statement, Nawaz said police will also continue investigations into those who have also been released by court order.
Officers injured, harassed on the street
Speaking at the press briefing Nawaz said that in the last four days of the protest, 14 police officers and one Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) security officer had suffered injuries from protesters throwing bricks and glass bottles into police lines.
Nawaz said that the recent protests could be described as peaceful assembly adding that the protest “is rather believed as an act to impeded police duty and terrorise the capital city Male’”.
According to the statement, “Police officers of different ranks have received threatening calls and text messages from unknown numbers from abroad”.
The statement specifically notes an incident whereby a police officer on the street was harassed with inappropriate language in front of his three-year-old child, “who has since suffered from psychological trauma”.