A police officer has testified against a fellow officer, Ibrahim Faisal, who is currently being charged for attacking former opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson and MP Mariya Ahmed Didi on February 8, 2012.
On February 7, 2012, the continuous anti-government protest led by then-opposition political parties and religious scholars following the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed gave way to a mutiny by a segment from both the police and military officers against Nasheed, resulting in his premature resignation from office.
The following day, Nasheed along with the MDP and thousands of people, took to the streets in protest claiming that Nasheed was ousted in a bloodless coup d’état. However the en masse demonstration met by a brutal crackdown from both police and military officers during which several MDP MPs and politicians backing the MDP suffered injuries.
Testifying against Faisal, Lance Corporal Mohamed Saarim told the court that he was with Faisal in the ranks of police during the time the protests were dismantled.
Saarim testified that Faisal was among the police officers who went inside a shop to arrest senior MDP figures, including current Party Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Mariya Didi and former President Nasheed, who took refuge inside after the police led the heavy crackdown on protesters.
During this incident, Saarim claimed that he saw Faisal attacking Mariya Didi, punching her in the abdomen. According to Saarim, Faisal dragged Mariya Didi out of the shop, before handing her over to another officer.
The Lance Corporal also claimed that he had told Faisal not to act so aggressively, but he had disregarded his call. Saarim also recalled that Faisal was not in his uniform and was clothed as a civilian, and had used his bare hands to attack the MP.
During the hearings, Saarim also acknowledged the statement he gave to Police Integrity Commission (PIC) which was presented to the court. Saarim stated that the statement was a true statement given based on what he witnessed on the day.
When the sitting Judge Muhuthaaz Fahmy questioned Faisal about the statements by Saarim, he denied the claim saying that he did not harm anyone. He further told the court that he was not present with the group of police officers who entered into the shop, but was instead having a coffee.
Faisal made the same statement to the PIC, which was also heard in court.
Concluding the hearing, the judge stated that the only witness presented to the court by the prosecution was Saarim. He did not mention a date for the next hearing.
Along with Faisal, police officer Mohamed Waheed from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll is also facing criminal charges for assaulting MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa, hitting him on the head with a metal canister.
Mariya recalls the attack
Mariya Didi described the moment when the officers barged into the shop as an “attempt on our lives”.
“On February 8, after the police dispersed those who marched to protest their government being over thrown by police and military, President Nasheed and Ahmed ‘Dhonbilai’ Haleem saw me fall and gasp for breath, almost falling tinto the sea as the police and military used the yellow gas they used at such close range,” she said.
“They picked me up and as they knew I was suffering from the injuries of the previous day (February 7,2012), I looked in a state with all the bruises to my face and body, and also a black eye from a beating the previous day,” she said.
“They wanted to put me to safety in the shop as they knew these officers wanted us all dead,” she added.
“Moosa, Nasheed and myself entered the shop. As I was standing inside the shop, the police came and took Moosa first,” she recalled.
“In a moment, some other police came and pulled me up. They handcuffed me at the back with bands they had and kept pulling my hair. They kept beating me all over. They sprayed my whole body with pepper spray, especially in the black eye from the previous day, and into my nostrils. I recently had a sinus operation in Bangkok and just returned. These police officers were all over beating me, my whole body was black and blue,” she explained.
“It was rather shameful that people in uniform thought it fit that they beat up a woman who was already handcuffed tightly behind her back. The scars are still there on my wrists,” she said.
“I hope our men in uniform learn to behave with discipline and professionalism and not let their political views overtake their oath and duty to this country,” she said.
“Jazbaath (‘being emotional’) is no excuse,” she stressed.
Human Rights Commission inquiry
On August 22, 2012, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) released an investigative report (Dhivehi) which concluded that the police crackdown on the MDP march, which left dozens of demonstrators injured, was “brutal” and “without prior warning.”
Thirty-two people filed complaints with the HRCM concerning the varying degrees of injuries they sustained in the crackdown, while 20 people also submitted medical documents pertaining to the treatment of those wounds.
Among the injuries caused by the police baton charge, the HRCM report noted that several people were bruised and battered, one person had a fractured leg bone, another person’s arm was broken, and six people sustained head wounds.
Two fingers on the left hand of one demonstrator were crushed, the report also noted, and the victim had to undergo a corrective operation.
Meanwhile, the former ruling party informed the HRCM that their march across Male’ was spontaneous and that the party had not planned to stage any protests on February 8.
While riot police baton-charged the front line of protesters on February 8, Minivan News observed riot police also charging the crowd from a narrow alley leading to the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) area.
The SO police officers used obscene language, pointed to and chased after individual MDP activists and severely beat unarmed civilians.
Al Jazeera news filmed parts of the attack from the rear and reported that on February 8 “police and military charged, beating demonstrators as they ran – women, the elderly, [with] dozens left nursing their wounds,”
Amid the clashes, a group of opposition demonstrators infiltrated the crowds, attacking MDP supporters, according to witnesses.
Former President Nasheed was reported among the injured, having received head injuries during the clashes.
Minivan News also observed several youth with head injuries queuing up for x-rays in the waiting area outside the reception area of Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).
One young woman who went into IGMH with her sister was being treated for a head wound. The gauze wrapped around her head was spotted with blood, and she claimed the wound was still bleeding as she went in for an X-ray.
“The police were just standing there and suddenly we were being beaten with batons and pepper spray was thrown in our face. They threw us to the ground and kept beating us,” she said.