A police officer was hospitalised last night after being struck by a ball set on fire and hurled during night’s protest outside Male’s fish market, where opposition party members have been rallying crowds since January 16 calling for the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed from military detention.
According to police parts of the officer’s uniform were burnt along with some of the weapons he was carrying at the time. The officer also sustained injuries to his neck, chin and ears.
The officer was immediately taken to ADK hospital, police said. Two other police officers injured during the confrontation have been admitted to hospital as well.
Police said they are currently investigating the attack. No other arrests or injuries were reported.
During the opposition-led protest, which began at approximately 9:00pm last evening, a group of 200 active participants charged police blockades in an effort to enter the off-limits Republic Square. Between 10:30pm and 11:30pm protesters and police advanced and retreated along the jetty near the fish market several times. Various glass objects as well as empty bottles, stones, eggs, young coconuts and flares were thrown by protesters into the police zone, occasionally falling short of their marks and landing among the protesting crowd.
Police retaliated by pushing back the crowd, eventually deploying tear gas and pepper spray.
A woman who was sprayed following a near-hysterical confrontation with police was treated and calmed by a group of protesters on the side lines before rejoining the crowd.
Meanwhile, approximately 200 bystanders observed the commotion from the upper levels of nearby boats and the fish market opposite, some laughing, some shouting, and some simply watching.
Yesterday afternoon, activists and Parliament members from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) marched up the island’s central road of Majeedhee Magu, past the tsunami memorial and down Ameenee Magu to the party camp, calling for all judges to be arrested and for Male’ city “to be calm.” At the party camp activists announced their intention to advance on the protesters that evening at 8:30pm, before dispersing for prayer and dinner.
The previous evening, protest leaders went to the house of Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to request an immediate meeting. The Vice President reportedly welcomed them inside, and at 1:00am opposition leaders emerged pledging allegiance to the Vice President and urging him to assume control of the executive.
The government maintained that it had not lost confidence in the Vice President, discounting his decision to meet with the protesters as a diplomatic courtesy and reaffirmed its faith in his allegiance. During the protest the following evening, however, protesters maintained that the Vice President was on their side.
“He wants the judge free, he has said he shares our interests,” an opposition protester told Minivan News.
Party members from both sides of the political aisle gathered at their respective locales last night. MDP activists reportedly urged an advance on the fish market, however MDP Chairman and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik instructed those assembled to wait for official party orders, according to sources.
Although the crowd vocally supported an advance, no official decision was made and members of the crowd did not initiate a mass movement.
A protest coordinator and opposition party member meanwhile told Minivan News that a number of protesters were harmed during last night’s protest at the fish market in a clash with the MDP.
“It is the [MDP] activists who are doing and throwing these things,” he claimed. “They are the ones causing all the damage.”
Other protesters acknowledged that gang members are known to be participating in the demonstrations, sometimes after taking drugs or alcohol, however they would not provide further details.
Protests are expected to continue through February 24, the opposition protest coordinator said.