Summary: Testimony of former police chief superintendent to Government Oversight Committee

In January 2013, parliament’s Government Oversight Committee heard testimony from six of the highest-ranking officers of the police and military for its review of the Commission of National Inquiry’s (CoNI’s) report into the transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012. Minutes of the closed-door sessions (Dhivehi) along with audio recordings were made public on January 16, 2013.

Following is a translated summary of the testimony from former Chief Superintendent of Police Mohamed Jinah to the oversight committee on January 11, 2013. Jinah, then head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), was sacked from the police service two days later.

On the night of February 6, 2012, Jinah arrived at the police headquarters around 10:30pm. As he was due to leave the country for medical purposes the following night, Jinah went to finalise administrative matters concerning his leave of absence.

Jinah went up to the executive room on the fifth floor to find Chief Superintendent Mohamed ‘MC’ Hameed, who was then head of police intelligence. Hameed was there with other intelligence officers monitoring live CCTV footage from the artificial beach.

Jinah saw opposition protesters and ruling party supporters facing off and throwing rocks at each other. Hameed was upset with the withdrawal of riot police.

Jinah stepped out to the foyer and met Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh. The commissioner informed him that President Mohamed Nasheed had ordered the Specialist Operations (SO) officers to be withdrawn. Jinah told the commissioner that “something big” must have happened for the president to issue such a command.

Hearing a loud commotion, Jinah went downstairs and saw SO officers filing into Republic Square. They were shouting and gathering at the helipad area.

Jinah began working with intelligence chief Hameed to find out what was happening. They soon learned that rogue SO officers had assaulted government supporters at the artificial beach and ransacked the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP’s) Haruge (meeting hall).

Upon learning that the military was preparing to arrest the rogue police officers, Jinah warned the police deputy commissioners of dire consequences should a violent confrontation occur between the security services. Jinah advised approaching the protesting police “professionally and wisely” to negotiate. However, none of the senior officers had command and control at the time and Commissioner Faseeh was inside military headquarters.

Jinah saw soldiers form ranks and prepare to charge only to withdraw every time, appearing reluctant to confront the mutinying police. “I did not fully believe even then that the soldiers didn’t know how or were unable to do it.”

At 7:30am, Jinah and Hameed called Faseeh and attempted to arrange a meeting with the SO commanders at the commissioner’s office. A senior SO officer named Ahmed Abdul Rahman was to be present as a witness.

While the communications were ongoing, Jinah heard clashes erupt at the Republic Square and saw from the foyer window tear gas canisters being thrown. The mutinying police clashed with soldiers. During the confrontation, some soldiers joined the mutiny.

Jinah and Hameed were at the conference room when they heard loud clamouring from inside the headquarters. When they stepped outside, Jinah saw a group of officers holding back the door to the (executive) officer’s block.

“They were blocking the door and said [the mutinying officers] were coming threatening to kill.” The junior officers vowed that the mutinying police would have to kill them to enter the conference room.

“I said, ‘you don’t have to die. They don’t have to die either. What is this talk of dying? Open the door.’ Then when I asked a bit angrily they opened the door.”

Mutinying officers outside were claiming that MDP activists had killed a police officer and set fire to several buildings. Jinah learned later that none of the claims were true. But at the time an officer was crying and claiming that an iron rod was shoved into the victim’s neck.

“The way he said it a police officer was speared like a fish. So the boys gathered there were enraged.”

A group of SO officers then forcibly dragged Jinah and Hameed away, shoving and beating the senior officers. Jinah noticed that a junior officer named Shifau appeared to be in charge. Shifau had “a closet full of disciplinary records.”

Shifau grabbed him by the cuff and complained about a disciplinary committee hearing where he was questioned by Jinah. Another group of police arrived and drew the pair apart. Jinah and Hameed were kept aside for about 45 minutes.

They heard groups of mutinying officers armed with iron rods calling for Faseeh and other senior officers, threatening to kill. One group found Jinah and Hameed and dragged them away, pushing and shoving. Hameed however managed to escape and ran to the fourth floor.

Jinah also wriggled free and hurried to his office on the third floor. Jinah saw that the drug storage “strong room” next to his office was open and its lock destroyed. All the illegal narcotics seized by police were stored there.

“The door was smashed. So in truth the place where the drugs were stored was on sale that day. The place was open for anyone to enter and take anything they want.”

“Then I ran inside my office and was locking some documents and personal belongings inside a drawer when they came and broke down the door.”

The harddisk on Jinah’s computer along with some confidential case files have since not been recovered.

The mutinying officers shoved and pushed Jinah down the stairs. He was taken inside the Gaazee building and kept there for about an hour, after which Shifau and two other officers came with handcuffs.

“They said my hands will be cuffed behind the back. I said you can’t do it behind. You should kill me if you want cuff my hands behind my back.”

The mutinying officers discussed amongst themselves and said OK. They cuffed Jinah’s hands in front and led him outside, all the while shoving and beating him with their boots.

A group of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) activists joined the mutinying officers escorting Jinah. Both the civilian group and mutinying officers called for Jinah to be mobbed and lynched.

However, another group of civilians and police officers, which included Jinah’s friends and relatives, ran over and surrounded him. They protected Jinah and put him on a speedboat to the police detention island of Dhoonidhoo.

At Dhoonidhoo, Jinah noted that the officers on duty there were not involved in the mutiny. They took off his handcuffs. The officer-in-charge, Staff Sergeant Mujthaba Zahir, informed Jinah that a junior officer named Azeem Waheed called and said Jinah was on the way.

Shortly thereafter, inmates at the detention center broke out of their cells. They included dangerous criminals arrested by Jinah.

Jinah was protected by officers on duty. A group of SO officers soon arrived to quell the inmate uprising. Jinah found out that SO officers had come to Dhoonidhoo after midnight, broken into the armoury and taken away all the weapons.

Jinah called then-Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed. Jinah had worked closely with Waheed as the vice-president was in charge of the previous administration’s pledge to combat drug trafficking and abuse. But Waheed did not answer. He sent a text message to Waheed’s secretary and was told that the president-in-waiting would attend to Jinah’s predicament.

“He hasn’t attended to it yet. Next February it will be one year to February 7.”

Jinah learned from the Dhoonidhoo staff that current Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA’ were in charge of police. He called the pair. Riyaz claimed he did not know anything about Jinah’s arrest and hung up the phone. Fayaz said the same and asked Jinah what he was doing in Dhoonidhoo.

Jinah then called Faseeh and asked him to get Superintendent Abdulla Fairoosh, who had taken over as acting commissioner, to send a speedboat to Dhoonidhoo. But Faseeh said he was in the process of resigning.

“In any case, I managed to get a launch after a lot of work. I got the launch and left on it. I went and stayed at HIH [Hulhule’ Island Hotel]. From there I flew overseas that night.”

Jinah learned later that President Nasheed knew of his arrest before his resignation.

“Arresting officers of the security forces is one element of a coup d’etat. We were the responsible officers of the [security] service at the time. I believe taking away our powers and arresting us was one of the first acts of the mutiny. So they did that.

“I believe that I definitely would not have been able to return alive and safely to my family if President Nasheed did not resign. I was under arrest and in their custody at the time. Therefore, I believe that President Nasheed resigned under duress to save me and others in my situation as well as to save the lives of everyone else who could have been harmed.”

Jinah observed that mutiny or rebellion against the government by the security forces was “an element of Third World countries.”

The mutinying police and army officers on February 7 “took upon themselves the label of a Third World country on their own.”

At CoNI, Jinah was asked mostly about the arrest of Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed in January 2012. Apart from asking Jinah to recount his experience of February 7, the commission members did not ask questions regarding the events that immediately preceded the transfer of power.

“I basically do not accept the [CoNI] report at all. The reason is because I recounted what happened to me. There are photos and videos of me in handcuffs being beaten and dragged. However, the [CoNI] timeline stated that I was arrested for my own security and protection. So how can I accept the CoNI report? I can never accept that report.”

(Read summaries of the testimony from former police intelligence chief Mohamed ‘MC’ HameedBrigadier General Ahmed Nilam and Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh).