The Criminal Court has commenced the trial of five men accused of vandalising the offices of private broadcaster Villa Television (VTV) during protests held in Male’, on the day President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik delivered his inaugural Presidential Speech.
VTV is owned by Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim, which is represented in President Waheed’s coalition government.
The Prosecutor General (PG) has pressed charges against Ismail Hammaadh of Maduvvari in Raa Atoll, Ahmed Hameeed and Hussein Hameed of Alifushi in Raa Atoll, Ahmed Naeem of Henveiru Ladhumaageaage, Hussein Shifau Jameel of Maafannu Nooruzeyru, Aanim Hassan of Ferishoo in North Ali Atoll, Ahmed Muheen of Galolhu Haalam and Mohamed Hameed.
Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported that a lawyer representing the PG’s Office pressed charges against the five suspects for their alleged violation of legislation banning threatening behaviour and the possession of sharp weapons.
All of the respondents have denied the charges against them.
Local media reported that the PG’s Office lawyer was given the opportunity to produce evidence including witness statements, pictures and video footage provided by VTV staff present at the area when the incident occurred. Police and MNDF officers were also produced to the court for their accounts.
On March 19, President Dr Waheed Hassan Manik delivered his opening address to parliament amid widespread anti-government demonstrations, after the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) took to the street to prevent him from giving the speech. Violent clashes between police and protesters and sparked major unrest in the capital Male’.
Following violent confrontations between civilians and security forces during the day, 99 people were arrested, with a number of security officers and protesters reported injured.
Police Superintendent Ahmed Mohamed previously said that the attack on VTV was itself an act of terrorism and that those involved should receive “the harshest punishment possible”.