Leaked CCTV footage which has thrown into dispute an official police account of 43 year-old Abdulla Gasim Ibrahim’s death in a motorcycle accident on August 17 has been making rapid rounds on social media.
The family of the victim in September raised the matter with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), stating: “the ‘accident’ occurred due to a policeman standing in front of Hilaaleege using his baton to hit the head of the driver on a motorcycle which had two people fleeing after stealing, which caused the motorcycle to lose control and drive into Abdulla Gasim Ibrahim’s motorcycle.”
Ibrahim’s widow Naseema Khaleel told Minivan News on Monday that she had received no official response from the PIC to her letter.
“I call the PIC now and then and ask about it. They first said they’ve asked the police for the relevant footage, then later said they had received it. The standard answer since then has been that they are looking into the matter,” Khaleel said.
“The police call every now and then. They called a few days back to ask for the motorcycle registration and bills. They too say they are investigating the case. I do want to take the matter to court. Right now I’m waiting to see if we get a response from PIC,” Khaleel explained. “What else can we do?”
Khaleel stays home taking care of the couple’s two children, and said she has faced much hardship following her husband’s death.
“No state bodies or anyone else have extended any sort of support. My brothers and family help as much as they can. The younger child is seven and I, too, wish to provide for my children, for their education and school activities. But it is hard now,” she said.
Khaleel said she had approached the police after the incident, asking for assistance in taking her husband abroad for emergency medical care, but to no avail.
“I did approach the police to ask for help, but did not get any assistance from them. We had bury him in Sri Lanka in the end. I was not even given the police records, which further complicated things there. Had I gotten at least cooperation from the police, things would not have been as difficult as they were,” she said.
Khaleel said that although the Aasandha health insurance scheme helped with the medical costs, the graveness of the situation called for her and other close family members to travel with Ibrahim. She said the family had not received any assistance even in this instance.
“I am not trying to blame the police or any other persons involved. But even the police have said that Gasim had no fault in this, that he was just an innocent bystander. Then someone needs to take responsibility,” Khaleel said.
“I don’t know what else we can do. They are elusive and very slow, which is why we keep calling back. All I want is justice,” Khaleel told Minivan News.
Investigation almost concluded: PIC
PIC Director General Fathimath Sarira confirmed the PIC had received the letter, and that the investigation was now nearing the point of conclusion.
She also confirmed that the PIC had previously received the leaked footage and that it was part of the ongoing investigation.
Article 41(c) of the Police Act states that 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 if police had in accordance with the above article notified PIC of the incident, Sarira replied, “Police has notified the commission about the accident over 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.”
Asked for clarification on what actions the commission would take if police were found to have failed to notify the commission as required, Sarira responded that police usually did keep the PIC informed and that she could not recall any recent incidents to refer back to.
“We will be concluding this investigation very soon and can then provide more details,” she said.
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Ahmed Tholal stated that they had only become aware of the incident after the leaked video went viral on social media.
“We have today started discussions on the matter in the commission meeting. Only after the commission members conclude discussions can we provide details on how we will proceed to act on this matter,” he said.
“Police Commissioner Riyaz must take responsibility”
Former President Mohamed Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have meanwhile released statements condemning the cover-up of the incident, and calling for Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz to take responsibility for the incident.
“I am shocked and appalled by the leaked video, which appears to show a policeman hitting a motorcyclist in the head with a baton, which led to the death of an innocent bystander,” said Nasheed.
“Under [President Mohamed] Waheed’s administration, we are seeing a return to the thuggish brutality of Maldives’ authoritarian past. I implore the international community to pressure the Waheed government to immediately and impartially investigate this case, to bring human rights abusers in the security forces to book, to cease its harassment of opposition members, and hold early elections so democracy can be restored.”
Warning: some viewers may find the following footage disturbing.