MP Ahmed Mahloof and opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV journalist Mohamed Wisam and cameraman Adam Zareer are among nine arrested from last night’s opposition protest march.
A police media official told Minivan News today that the former ruling party MP, two journalists and six others were arrested for “obstructing police duties and disobeying police orders.”
The Criminal Court this morning extended the remand detention of the Galolhu South MP and the two journalists to five days.
While one protester was released from police custody, the court extended the remand detention of two protesters to seven days and three protesters to five days.
Photos of Specialist Operations (SO) police officers manhandling the Mahloof have been widely circulated on social media. Journalists at the scene reported that the MP’s shirt was ripped open during the arrest near the fish market.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile condemned Mahloof’s arrest, claiming he was “targeted” by the police and due to his outspoken criticism of the government following his expulsion from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
The ruling party’s disciplinary committee expelled Mahloof on February 25 for allegedly defaming President Yameen and bringing the government into disrepute with false statements in the media.
In a statement released today, the MDP claimed Mahloof was arrested “brutally” and condemned police for “obstructing the protest in violation of the Constitution”.
Police used obscene language while arresting the MP, the statement alleged.
The opposition party said riot police officers pepper MDP MP Ali Nizar as well as other protesters in the eye and confiscated the protest’s “sound pickup” and loudspeakers.
Raajje TV has meanwhile condemned the arrests of the two journalists, describing the arrests as an “obstruction of rights guaranteed under the constitution, including the rights to freedom of information and freedom of press.”
A Channel One journalist was also arrested the previous night for allegedly obstructing police duties. The Criminal Court extended his remand detention to 10 days.
Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of its staff, Raajje TV noted that it was “yet to receive any justice with regards to previous attacks targeted to our station and journalists.”
The Maldives Police Service also released a statement alleging that protesters assaulted several police officers last night after breaking through barricades near the Republic Square.
Protests are banned in the ‘green zone’ area encompassing the Republic Square as well as police and military headquarters.
Protesters also smashed the windows of a police vehicle last night, the statement added. Police officers on the vehicle were attempting to stop protesters from using loudspeakers after 11:00pm.
Invoking powers granted by Article 41 of the Freedom of Assembly Act, police issued a statement earlier this week ordering protest organisers not to use loudspeakers or megaphones after 11:00pm and to end the protest at 12:00am.
Moreover, police warned protesters against repeatedly gathering in one location or street.