The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused the police of disrupting demonstrations and obstructing freedom of assembly by asking for prior notice for protests.
The opposition has continued nightly gatherings despite a crackdown on a mass antigovernment protest on May Day. Nearly 200 were arrested and scores were injured in violent clashes on Friday.
The police have now ordered the MDP to give prior notice despite a constitutional provision guaranteeing freedom of assembly without prior notice.
In a statement today, MDP said: “On May 2, the police barged into the opposition gathering and attempted to confiscate the sound system and asked to stop the gathering without giving any legal reasoning. The activity continued despite the warning.
“On May 3, the police’s special operations team again disrupted the gathering and arrested Jumhooree Party Council member Sobah Rasheed. On May 4 and 5, police disrupted peaceful gatherings. When the protest spilled onto the streets, the police arrested people indiscriminately.”
Former president Mohamed Nasheed’s running mate in the 2013 presidential polls was arrested, but was released, the party noted.
The opposition is protesting over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
Since the May Day protest, the police have stopped and confiscated the sound system used in a lorry to announce daily gatherings, the statement read. The individuals on the lorry were arrested.
The police, however, have said the MDP has rejected repeated calls for dialogue over the protests.
In a statement on Tuesday, the police insisted the opposition’s protests must not obstruct others’ rights or daily life in the capital. The MDP had provided prior notice, but had failed to act as indicated in the notices, the police said.
The MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said they had asked police to provide discussion points in writing prior to the meeting, but had not received a reply.
The police statement was “very irresponsible,” he said, insisting that the party has always accepted invitations to hold discussions.
“It is also very hard to attend such discussions when the party’s chairperson and president have been jailed. What discussions can we have without our leadership?” he said.
The party’s chairperson Ali Waheed, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla and JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim were arrested on May 2 for “intimidation.”
The MDP has now written to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) urging the oversight bodies to ensure the constitutional right of freedom of assembly.
Freedom of expression and right to assemble are constitutional rights, the MDP said, calling on the independent commissions to investigate violations.