The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has concluded its investigation into the death of Abdulla Gasim Ibrahim and determined that his death was not due to police negligence, or due the use of disproportionate or unwarranted force.
Abdulla Gasim Ibrahim died following an incident outside the Justice Building on August 17 last year, in which an officer attempted to stop a fleeing motorcyclist and passenger by stepping in front of the vehicle and appearing to strike the riders with his baton.
Leaked CCTV footage of the incident shows the motorcyclist and his passenger colliding with Gasim, who was parked on the side of the road, resulting in his death. The police officer then leaves the scene, as others arrive and bundle Gasim into a police vehicle. Police made no mention of police involvement at the time of the incident.
Following the release of the CCTV footage, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz told Parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee that the Police Standards Command had concluded that Constable Moosa Shamil – the officer seen in the leaked video footage of Gasim’s death – had used the baton to stop a suspected criminal in accordance with regulations.
The PIC statement listed six reasons as to why the commission agreed with the police service’s conclusion.
Firstly, it stated “there is reason to believe from the movements of the two policemen who stopped the motorcycle, that they came out in front of the Justice Building 20 seconds before the accident occurred, having received an instruction to stop a fleeing motorcycle.”
The statement then said that since the motorcycle was suspected to be stolen property, section 4 (c) paragraph 2 of “the Regulation Governing the Utilisation of all Lawful Powers and Discretions of the Police” allowed the policeman to attempt to stop the vehicle.
However, initial police reports only stated that the men had a stolen mobile phone in their possession. The motorcycle was said to be stolen property only in December 2012, after the case against the motorist and his passenger was sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office.
The PIC also justified the use of the baton to stop the speeding vehicle driven by “someone showing disobedience”, citing section 2(b), 2(c) and 3(d) of the “Regulation Governing the Holding and Use of the Baton.”
Furthermore, “having examined the video footage, it is not certain whether the baton used by the policeman came into contact with [the riders] on the motorcycle, and where it is deemed that there was contact, it is believed that the contact would have been on the back of the person sitting at the backseat of the motorcycle; and that no identification was made to confirm that the speed or the movement of the motorcycle altered because of any police movement.”
The last point noted on PIC’s statement read: “having examined the video footage received by the Commission, it is known that Abdulla Gasim stopped the motorcycle behind the policemen after the policemen had gone to the centre of the road; and therefore given that the attention of the policemen at that moment was on what was happening in front, there is no room to find that the policemen were aware that Gasim was standing where he stood, as a spectator.”
“No hope of justice when police investigate themselves”: Gasim’s widow
“There is no hope of justice when it is the police themselves who are investigating their actions,” Gasim’s widow, Naseema Khaleel, told Minivan News, adding that she was “appalled” by the PIC’s conclusion.
“These are things that even a mere child won’t accept. In the leaked video I can the seen the policeman standing in front of the motorcycle and swinging his baton. How, then, can the PIC say that it would have hit the passenger, and that too on his back?
“And as for the speed and direction of the motorcycle not being altered after the driver was hit with the baton – the video doubtless says otherwise. Judging by these observations by the PIC which go against the video evidence, it seems they perhaps watched a completely different video,” Naseema said.
She referred to where the report described Gasim as a “spectator” who had stopped at the scene.
“The report calls Gasim a spectator who stopped there out of curiosity. I found that most hurtful. According to this country’s regulations, when there is a vehicle approaching from behind with its sirens blasting, drivers are to move to the side of the road. That’s what Gasim did. He wasn’t waiting around to pry,” Naseema said.
Naseema said that she felt that along with Constable Moosa Shamil, he other officers who were seen in the leaked video to be active on the scene ought to be questioned about the day’s events for a more complete investigation.
Parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee has meanwhile decided to summon Constable Moosa Shamil for questioning.
“We believe that since Constable Shamil is alleged of having committed this act, we must give him an opportunity to speak in his defence. This is why we are summoning him,”said Chair of the Committee, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Waheed.
In view of Naseema’s remarks, Ali Waheed said that the committee had not previously thought to summon the other policemen at the scene.
“If members in the committee feel there is need for further deliberation, we will proceed as such. Speaking with the other officers there is an option we will take into consideration.”
Waheed said that if the committee felt it necessary, the parliament regulations allowed them to summon the PIC in relation to the matter they were investigating.
“Now that the PIC has also reached a conclusion, we will be looking into that too. We will be setting the schedule for these meetings soon,” Waheed said.
The committee summoned Gasim’s family on January 29. At the meeting, Gasim’s son Mohamed Gais said police had summoned him to obtain a statement in relation to his father’s death.
“The only question the police asked was if I wanted the death penalty to be given to the person responsible for my father’s death. I told them no, we want them to pay damages instead,” Gais said.
Naseema stated at the meeting that in spite of police having denied involvement, in light of the information available, she felt the police were still responsible for the death of her husband.
Article 41(c) of the Police Act states that the Maldives Police Service should inform the PIC upon the occurrence of death or infliction of grave bodily injury to a person due to the use of force by a police officer.
Asked in December if police had in accordance with the said article notified PIC of the incident, PIC Director General Fathimath Sarira stated: “Police have notified the commission about the accident in a phone call. Although, when we first heard of the case, it was only said that a speeding motorcycle had collided with a parked one and led to a death. But then later, we got the footage too.”
Police Media Official Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News in January that police had not mentioned the involvement of Constable Shamil to either the PIC or the public because “Initially even I knew of it as an accident. We wouldn’t know all the details at once. We learn facts as the investigation moves forward. It was portrayed as a cover-up in coverage, but we say it was an accident as that is what our investigations state it is.”
With regard to the PIC report, Minivan News asked Haneef if Constable Shamil had acted “having received an instruction to stop a fleeing motorcycle”, and if so how it was possible that police had not initially known of the police involvement as he had previously stated.
“Yes, he was responding to instructions and communication was made through our walkie-talkies. We had reports of the robbery and the accident as two separate incidents,” Haneef said.
PIC President Abdulla Waheed’s phone was switched off and Director General Fathimath Sarira was not responding to calls at time of press.