Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof has been taken into police custody for 15 days after refusing to accept a conditional release from detention under which he would have been barred from protests.
Mahloof scuffled with police outside the court after the period of detention was handed down Friday evening. Police said he tried to flee while being escorted into a vehicle. He was immediately seized by officers, but said he had just been trying to speak to his wife.
Mahloof’s wife Nazra Naseem was also involved in an altercation with officers and later said they had twisted her arm, pinched her stomach and torn buttons from her top.
Mahloof is being held at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre, his lawyer said.
Formerly a member of the ruling party, Mahloof was initially arrested on 25 March at an opposition protest over the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, and was detained under house arrest for five days.
He was handed additional house arrest for refusing a previous protest ban, then was taken to the criminal court last night for a third remand hearing, as the court order to detain him was about to expire.
The criminal court ordered that Mahloof be detained again because he refused for a second time to accept the court’s condition to stay away from gatherings of four or more people for 30 days.
“Mahloof said he would not accept the court’s terms, so he was remanded for an extra 15 days in police detention,” said Abdulla Haseen, the MP’s lawyer.
The criminal court has recently released a series of protesters on condition they stay away from demonstrations for a set period of time, but this tactic has met with criticism from legal experts and the prosecutor general.
“Releasing a person suspected of a crime with conditions other than ensuring the person’s return to the court maybe unconstitutional,” the prosecutor general wrote in a letter to the chief judge of the criminal court, obtained by Minivan News last week.
Meanwhile, the constitution says people can only be held in pre-trial detention under certain circumstances: if further interrogation is needed, if they are a danger to society, if they may influence witnesses or if they might flee.
Police said Mahloof had tried to run away from officers as he was being escorted into a police vehicle after Friday’s remand hearing, a claim he denies.
“Mahloof said he wanted to talk to the reporters outside because police manhandled his wife,” said his lawyer.
Eyewitness Sabra Noordeen said the MP did not try to flee but “ran to his wife” because she was shouting.
“Nazra [Mahloof’s wife] was near the police vehicle and he ran towards her. He wasn’t trying to flee though,” she said.
Speaking to Raajje TV last night, Nazra said she was molested by police as she tried to meet her husband outside the court.
“One policeman pinched my stomach and touched parts of my body that he should not have. He also tore off the buttons of the top I was wearing,” she said.
“My arm and finger were twisted so badly that I thought they were going to break it. I am sure if I hadn’t screamed he [the police officer] would have broken my fingers.”
Nazra has submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives today.
Meanwhile the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned “police brutality towards Mahloof and his family”.
“Mahloof has been detained illegally for 25 days without charge. The MDP is concerned about the criminal court’s harassment of MP Mahloof and we condemn it,” the statement read.
“MDP sees the harassment towards MP Mahloof and his family as a warning to all Maldivian citizens by the government.”
Mahloof, a close associate of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) last month after he publicly criticised President Abdulla Yameen and the government.
He is now part of the opposition Alliance against Brutality, an anti-government coalition.