Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has said that an officer implicated in a collision that left a bystander dead had acted in accordance with regulations on tackling suspects.
Abdulla Gasim Ibrahim passed away following an incident near the Justice Building on August 17 last year, when an officer attempted to stop a fleeing motorcycle by stepping in front of the vehicle with his baton raised. The motorcycle then lost control and crashed into Gasim, who was parked on the side of the road on his motorcycle.
Leaked footage of the incident appears to show the officer hitting the vehicle’s driver with a baton.
Police stated back in August that Gasim had died following an accident where a fleeing motorcycle had crashed into him, failing to mention any involvement of the police officer.
The Maldives Police Service stated in December that the motorcycle which the men had been riding was also stolen property.
Commissioner Riyaz today told parliament’s Committee on Oversight of the Executive that the officer seen holding the baton had not acted illegally through his actions depicted in the footage.
Riyaz had been summoned before the committee to answer questions over alleged police involvement in the death of Gasim.
Speaking at the committee meeting today, the police commissioner stated that an investigation conducted by the Police Standards Command had reached the conclusion that Constable Moosa Shamil – the officer seen in the video – had used the baton to stop a suspected criminal in accordance with the existing regulations (Dhivehi).
Riyaz added that Shamil had completed and excelled at a two-day programme on baton use held by the Police Academy last March.
When some MPs raised the point that the video depicted Constable Shamil hitting the fleeing motorists with a lot of force using a baton, Riyaz replied that that could only be determined through checking forensic reports.
“I think that even taking a look from our eyes is enough to tell how much chance there is that the baton actually hit the man who is said to have been hit and injured by it,” he said.
While expressing regrets at the loss of a life in the incident, Riyaz praised Constable Shamil saying he would “salute” him for he had displayed “courage in having gone onto the street to stop the motorcycle at the expense of risk to his own life”.
He told the committee that police had submitted the case of Gasim’s death along with the case of the suspected thieves fleeing on a motorcycle to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office. Riyaz added that statements had been provided from police who had arrived at the scene as well as those of the officer who had attempted to stop the motorcycle.
He added that if there was a matter of police negligence in the incident, then the PG had the option of pressing charges against them.
Responding to statements by committee members that the family of Gasim had said they had received no communications from the police, Riyaz said the police had obtained a statement from Gasim’s eldest son, 18 year-old Gais Gasim.
According to the commissioner, the Maldives Police Service had been sharing updates with the widow of Gasim, Naseema Khaleel throughout the investigation. Riyaz stated that they had asked Gasim’s family as whether they wished for the guilty to be given the death penalty.
No communication initiated by police
Responding today to Riyaz’s comments, Naseema maintained claims that her family had rarely heard from the police regarding the investigation.
“We seldom heard from the police at all. We continued to call and ask for updates though, and the response we kept getting was that the investigation was going on,” Naseema said.
Naseema added that the PIC had also been vague and unresponsive about their investigations.
“We did hear from them at one point though, when they called and asked for Gasim’s heirs names and contact details. When I provided details, they then called our son, who became 18 years old in January, and summoned him to the police station once,” she said.
“”He has just turned 18 and one can’t really say he is an adult as such. Police asked him questions and he responded as he felt at the time. Police never told me or any guardians that he had been summoned there. That’s what Riyaz referred to today when he claimed family had been kept updated. That is not really the case,” Naseema continued.
“I am extremely disappointed after listening to what happened at that committee meeting today. What about the man who died? Is there no justice for him?”
Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz was not responding to calls at the time of press.
Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu and Vice President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives Ahmed Tholal were also not available for comment.
Riyaz also stated today that police were looking into how the video footage of the incident had been leaked onto social media.
The commissioner said that the investigation had revealed that the footage was from a police-owned CCTV and had been leaked from inside the police institution, describing it as “a very serious problem”.
He said that there were systems in place to determine that the video had indeed been leaked by police, and that leaking footage used in an investigation was in breach of the Police Code of Conduct.
He stated that the police would find out who was responsible for the leak and would take action against him within legal boundaries.
He pointed out that there had been previous instances where police officers who had committed similar acts had been dismissed from their posts.
Meanwhile, the Police Integrity Commission had previously stated on December 3, 2012 that they were nearing completion of their investigation into allegations of police involvement in the death of Gasim.
On September 24, 2012, Gasim’s wife had submitted a letter to the PIC requesting them to look into the incident. PIC Director General Fathimath Sarira had confirmed at the time that the PIC had received the leaked footage prior to it being leaked in social media.
Responding to a question by Minivan News as to why the Commissioner had stated Constable Shamil to be free of fault before the PIC had concluded their investigation, Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said the investigations were treated as two separate matters.
“As per our investigation, there is no negligence in this case from the side of the police officer. If PIC finds there is an issue, or a place like HRCM conducts an investigation and finds there is an issue here, then we will act on those findings accordingly,” he said.
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 last December if police had in accordance with the said article notified PIC of the incident, Sarira had stated at the time that: “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.”
Minivan News asked poliec inspector Haneef why police had not mentioned the involvement of Constable Shamil to either the PIC or the public. Haneef responded saying, “Even I initially knew of it as an accident. We wouldn’t know all the details at once. We learn facts as the investigation moves forward. It was portrayed as a cover-up in coverage, but we say it was an accident as that is what our investigations state it is.”