Police have exhibited video footage of a wooden pole thrown from above injuring a 17 year-old during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest outside former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s residence, Maafanu Endherimaage.
At a press briefing last night, Superintendent Mohamed Jinah said police wished to “reveal the truth” about the incident as “deliberately false allegations have been made against police using the media” to bring the institution into disrepute, and “relentless attempts” had been made to cast aspersions on police and its senior officers.
On Monday, police arrested Gassan Maumoon, son of the former President, on suspicion of hurling the 5-foot block of wood from the Endherimaage building. The Criminal Court however ruled that his arrest was unlawful and ordered his release.
The video footage shows the wooden pole strike the victim on the head and the crowd scattering after other objects were thrown down. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Minivan News journalists observed gravel, hot boiling water and sharp metal objects raining down on protesters.
Jinah said the victim, Hussein Hassan, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo Semy, had to undergo brain surgery to repair damage to his skull and “one side of his body is paralysed.”
Police did not want to reveal such video footage to the public lightly, said Jinah, but did so in this case because “many people have been using different media to claim that [the incident] never happened and make serious allegations against police contrary to the truth of the matter to bring the institution into disrepute.”
Police were also investigating damage caused to private property during the MDP protest and ascertaining the cost of the damages, Jinah said, adding however that police had not been provided security camera footage from residences in the area upon request.
Two MDP activists were arrested on suspicion of causing damage to the former President’s residence and adjoining houses. The pair have since been released after interrogation despite the Criminal Court extending their arrest for five days.
Of the two cases under investigation, said Jinah, “the most important and serious matter” was the “life-threatening” incident that left the 17-year-old hospitalised.
“We had reasons to implicate Gassan Maumoon in this matter,” Jinah said, adding that police had statements from eight witnesses who saw Gassan on the balcony as well as photos taken by a police forensic team of wooden poles inside the Endherimaage building Thursday night.
In addition to eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence, said Jinah, the “most important reason” for suspecting Gassan was his admission upon questioning that he did step out to the balcony.
When Gassan let slip that he was on the balcony, Jinah said “after a gesture from his lawyer he then exercised the right to remain silent.”
“When a police investigation team gets such information, there is no reason not to suspect a person of committing a crime,” he asserted.
The Criminal Court’s decision to order Gassan’s release was not based on the evidence submitted but “a procedural point” argued by the legal team of the accused.
Gassan’s lawyers filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus, or release from unlawful arrest, before police were due to take the former President’s son before the Criminal Court for an extension of detention.
The Criminal Court has since imposed a one-month travel ban upon request by police.
Meanwhile in a video message released before his arrest with footage from opposition-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV, Gassan denied the allegations and said he heard the protesters call for Gayoom to be “brought out, killed and dragged through the street.”
“At this dangerous moment, my priority was to take my father and mother to what I saw as the safest place in the house,” he said. “Afterwards, I called Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh and asked for help to save us. However we haven’t seen those who committed this atrocity taken for interrogation.”
After being summoned for questioning on Saturday, Gassan noted that police informed his lawyer by phone that a second summons chit was cancelled.
However, a third chit was issued the night before his arrest: “We believe that a third chit came to me after the government directly influenced police and ordered them,” he said.
Asked about the circumstances surrounding Gassan’s arrest, Jinah said Gassan was summoned a second time after receiving new information.
“We decided to take him into custody at the police headquarters,” he said. “If a person cannot be arrested at a police office, I don’t believe we can arrest a person on the street either.”