Three opposition protesters fined for obstruction of police duty

The Criminal Court has handed an MVR3000 (US$ 194.5) fine to three men who were arrested at opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests on charges of obstructing police duty.

The three were sentenced based on eyewitness statements by police officers, a statement by the Maldives Police Services said.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has condemned the charges as “manufactured”, but noted the Criminal Court had scaled down severity of sentences due to increased criticism of judiciary.

Last year’s report by UN Special Rapporteur Gabriella Knaul expressed “deep concern” over the failure of the judicial system to address “serious violations of human rights” during the Maldives’ 30 year dictatorship, warning of “more instability and unrest” should this continue to be neglected.

Ahmed Nazeer, 23, and Ahmed Ahid, 37, were arrested on March 1, 2012 at an MDP protest held to block then President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan from delivering a presidential address at the People’s Majlis.

According to the police statement, the two men beat on police shields with their hands and feet and attempted to break police lines at the junction of Lily Magu and Alikilegefaanu Magu in Malé.

Ubaidhulla Saeed, 29, was fined for breaking through police barricades and disobeying police orders on June 22, 2012 in front of the Bank of Maldives (BML) main branch on Boduthakurufaanu Magu.

Obstruction of police duty is deemed a crime under Article 72 of the Police Act. An individual found guilty of the offense may be fined up to MVR 12,000 (US$ 778), and/ or sentenced to six months in jail.

The MDP held serial protests calling for early elections following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster in February 2012.

According to the MDP, the police arrested over 800 individuals over the past two years and the Prosecutor General has filed charges against an estimated 170 MDP supporters “for exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly.”

The charges include terrorism, obstructing police duty, disobedience to order and attacking police officers.

The Prosecutor General’s Office states that police charged 37 individuals with obstruction of police duty in 2013.