Police accused of false testimony against May Day detainees

First came a deafening shot. Then, police in riot gear charged into the crowd, shoving and pushing protesters back. But Hamid Shafeeu and his friends did not run. They were arrested in front of Minivan News journalists. Now a police officer has sworn Hamid threw bottles and stones at the riot police.

Some 193 protesters were arrested on May 1 when violent clashes broke out after a historic antigovernment protest. Scores were injured.

Protesters threw glass and plastic bottles, lead balls and rocks. Police used tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades and made indiscriminate arrests.

The next day, the criminal court granted a blanket 15-day remand for 173 of the 193 detainees.

Hamid was held in police custody for 15 days in cramped conditions, and then transferred to house arrest for five days. He was released only today.

The high court, relying on police statements, previously rejected an appeal contesting the detention.

The 39-year-old businessman says he believes police are providing false testimony to jail him because of his vocal criticism of the government on Twitter.

Many others who were arrested at random or arrested for simply going to the protest now say police officers have accused them of assault.

The initial charges of disobedience to order carries a MVR3000 fine or six months in jail or house arrest or banishment, but attacking a police officer carries a MVR12, 000 fine and six months in jail.

It is not yet clear if the prosecutor general will file charges.

A police spokesperson has denied allegations of false testimony, but lawyers who have represented individuals arrested from past protests say the police routinely lie to keep dissidents in custody. Others have supported the claim, with the former chair of the police integrity watchdog saying several officers lied in the investigation into the transfer of power in February 7, 2012, and the brutal crackdown on protesters the next day.

A former policeman, meanwhile, said false testimony is indicative of the politicization of the force and the impunity riot police hold as very few are penalized for unlawful activities.

SO

Testifying before a Commonwealth backed inquiry into the 2012 transfer of power, ex-police chief Ahmed Faseeh described the riot police’s tactics in controlling protests: “Their language was filthy, their vocabulary was obscene. If they got hold of someone, they hit them.”

The riot police, known as Specialist Operations or SO officers, were created by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to quell pro-democracy protests in the mid 2000s. The hostility between SO officers and protesters continues to this day.

May Day detainees have reported verbal and physical abuse, while several individuals arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer on May Day said police cheered on as others beat them at the headquarters and threatened to kill them.

The police, however, have denied brutality and urged any victims to file complaints with oversight bodies.

Blogger Yameen Rasheed’s arrest was caught on camera. He was picked up on Chaandhanee Magu with several others at about 9pm, but the police are now accused him of throwing rocks and have placed him under house arrest. Yameen says he was walking to the Somerset Hotel in the area to meet a foreign journalist at the time of his arrest. The Indian reporter corroborates Yameen’s account.

Ahmed Naeem, a 25-year-old political science student, was arrested when he reportedly stepped in front of a police van. Of the 193 detainees, he is the only one remaining in police custody.

Lawyers say the police are now accusing him of breaking the van’s windows. According to his cellmates, police beat Ahmed severely at the time of his arrest, and his face was bruised and swollen for days.

Judges can only hold people in custody if further interrogation is needed, or if they are a danger to society, or if they may influence witnesses.

But lawyers claims judges remand dissidents for long periods of time to intimidate and harass them. The criminal court often holds protesters in custody for lengthier periods than those arrested for violent crimes, including murder, they said.

Lawyer Abdulla Haseen, who represented a close aide of ex-president Nasheed following her arrest from a protest in July 2012, said the police claimed in court that they had witnessed her throwing rocks. But Shauna Aminath’s arrest, which was broadcast live on television, showed the police drag her away without any provocation.

“An individual can be held in remand for a month, two months. Judges must verify and check police’s claims before approving long remands. Who will bear responsibility for all those lost weeks?” Haseen said.

Politicized

The ex chair of the police integrity commission (PIC), Shahindha Ismail, said police officers had provided strikingly similar statements to the commission’s investigation into the February 8, 2012 crackdown “with the same phrases and words as if they were reading from a pre-prepared document.”

Although four of the five members of the then-PIC ruled police actions on February 8 as lawful, Shahindha said officers had “targeted attacks to cause immense harm to specific individuals.”

She said the squad must be disbanded and punished for unlawful behavior. She urged judges to verify police claims with photos and videos or statements by unbiased witnesses before approving requests for lengthy detentions.

In October, SO officers were accused of cutting down all of Malé City’s Areca palms. In January, they were accused of planting weapons at the ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s apartment. The retired colonel was sentenced to 11 years in prison based on anonymized witness statements, which Nazim’s lawyers argue, were fabricated.

The prosecutor general’s office said it has not received complaints of false testimony by police or noticed any attempts at framing individuals.

Meanwhile, noting the role SO officers played in ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster, a former senior police officer said the squad was politically biased and “enjoy complete impunity, now to the point they feel they can do whatever they want.”

He, too, supported disbanding the SO, saying they regard routine police work as outside their duties. Faseeh had said the same in his statement.

The ex-officer said maintaining public order or riot control must be integrated into regular policing: “That way officers get to work together with people every day and will be more sensitive towards rights,” he said.

Photo by Shaari

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Two arrested for attempting to smuggle 8 bottles of alcohol into Malé

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has arrested two individuals who were attempting to smuggle eight bottles of alcohol into Malé from Hulhumalé.

A police statement said that both were Bangladeshi nationals who were trying to smuggle the bottles by hiding them under the seat of a motorcycle which was to be transported to Malé via ferry.

Hulhumalé police officers searched their vehicle after they had been observed behaving suspiciously near the ferry terminal. The case is being investigated by the Hulhumalé police station and the MPS drug enforcement department.

The run up to New Year’s eve saw a large amount of alcohol confiscated in the Malé area, with police reporting seven individuals taken into custody in a period of two days at the end of December in Hulhumalé.

Police also confiscated 70 bottles of liquor and 70 cans of beer with a street value of MVR200,000 (US12,970) from Faamudheyrige in Maafannu ward in Malé.

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People’s Majlis disrupted after disorder over water crisis

Allegation of assault against opposition MPs followed disruption in the People’s Majlis today as MPs attempted to debate the ongoing Malé water crisis.

Water services have been cut off from the capital for six days following a fire at the capital’s sole desalination plant.

The Majlis convened today – with debate on the proposed 2015 state budget and an urgent motion of the water crisis on the agenda. But proceedings were prematurely concluded after numerous points of order were raised by the opposition MPs.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Didi expressed her discontent that the parliament was receiving running water while water services for Malé residents were disrupted.

“While there is no water for the general public, there is water in the parliament. There is even running water in the toilets,” local media reported Mariya as saying.

This subsequent commotion saw Mariya standing in front of the Speaker of the Parliament Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed in protest, while former Speaker of the Majlis and MDP MP Abdulla Shahid has alleged he was attacked by members of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Shahid had since submitted a letter addressed to the speaker urging an investigation, while the MDP released a statement condemning the attack on Shahid and alleging an additional attack on Mariya by a pro-government MP.

However, PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Ahmed Nihan has denied the attacks when speaking with local media.

“Shahid started calling for the resignation of the government during the commotion. Some of our younger MPs went near the table and then there were some disagreements,” Nihan told Haveeru.

Questioning the water fund

The MDP also raised several queries regarding the US$20 million ‘Malé water crisis management fund’ set up by the government in order to recover the cost of dealing with the situation.

Speaking at a press conference today, MDP Vice Chairperson Ali Niyaz said that the government’s demands for US$20 million without a detailed breakdown of how the money is going to be spent might lead to corruption.

“Even though MWSC managing director is present during the press conferences, he has not been given any opportunity to speak and we have not received any information on the damages from a technical viewpoint,” complained Niyaz.

Following calls from the defence minister not to politicise relief efforts, Niyaz said that the party is not trying to politicise the US$20 million fund but was demanding answers and correct information from the technical staff at the MWSC rather than the “political figures” in the president’s task force.

The team assigned by President Abdulla Yameen to deal with the crisis includes Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed, Minister of Environment Thoriq Ibrahim, and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee.

Meanwhile, 5 people were arrested last night at a protest voicing the public’s frustrations with the government’s handling of the water crisis.

A police media official told Minivan News that the people were arrested for disobeying police orders and that all have now been released.

The MDP denied involvement in the protests, saying that the protests did not feature any of the MDP flags and that it was merely people expressing their frustrations with the government.



Related to this story

No fall back for disaster of this magnitude: President Yameen

Government seeks US$20 million in donations to repair Malé’s desalination plant

President Yameen to return to Maldives as water crisis enters third day

UN Maldives commends government’s response in water crisis, opposition condemns

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Police release 44 arrested from Anbaara

Police have confirmed the release of 44 individuals arrested from Anbaraa Island during a raid on a music festival on April 18.

A total of 79 suspects were taken into police custody from the island of Anbaraa in Vaavu atoll, all of whom were suspected of being under the influence of drugs, or had drugs on their person, according to police. On Tuesday (April 22) 19 women were transferred to house arrest.

After release of 44 individuals last night, there are currently 32 men still in police custody.

“We have 32 males [under arrest] , those who were in house arrest they are also released except for three,” confirmed a Police spokesperson.

“The investigation is completed now – so today some might be relsead, and some might be taken to court for extended custody,” the spokesperson added.

The Drug Enforcement Department, Specialist Operations, police intelligence department, and the forensic department conducted the operation, Satheeh told  Minivan News previously.

Upon searching the island as well as the 198 partygoers, Satheeh said police discovered different types of drugs and more than MVR90,000 (US$5,836) in cash.

In addition to beer cans, the drugs confiscated from the island included pills, LSD stickers, and hash oil joints as well as rubber packets, cellophane packets, and film canisters containing cannabis, Satheeh said.

However, the raid of the island and subsequent arrests have been an issue of contention, with some arguing that the Police’s actions were a breach of human rights.

In a recent article published on Minivan News, Mushfique Mohamed contended that the arrests at Anbaraa underpinned by a political and constitutional motive, with police using the arrests as a means of “garnering support along ultra-nationalist and Islamist lines.”

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has denied allegations by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that constitutional rights and procedures were violated in the arrest of 79 youth last weekend from a music festival in an uninhabited island.

In a press release issued in response to a statement yesterday by the MDP’s rights committee, police insisted that all the suspects taken into custody from Vaavu Anbaraa were informed of their constitutional rights as well as the reason for the arrest.

“In addition, they were informed in writing of the reason for their detention in accordance with the law, and they were told that they had the right to legal counsel,” the press release read.

It added that all suspects detained from Anbaraa were brought before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest. Police also noted that the island was raided with a court order.

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Three Maldivian students charged in Malaysia

Three Maldivian students who were arrested at a music festival in Malaysia have been charged with drug related offences.

Local media Sun Online reported that the three students – named by the local Malaysian press as Fazal Mohamed, 24, Hassan Ibrahim Hayyan, 20, Ahmed Hayyan Majeed, 19 – were arrested along with 22 others.

The arrests came after 6 people died at the Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) on March 14. The third day of the music festival was subsequently cancelled.

According to the FMFA press statement the organisers are “deeply saddened by the reported loss of lives,” and “thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those affected.”

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Eighteen years in prison for drug ringleader

The leader of a nation-wide drug network, Ibrahim Shafaz, was sentenced to 18 years in prison, Sun Online reports.

The sentence was handed down to Shafaz and five associates on Tuesday. Shafaz must also pay a fine of MVF 75 000 (US$4860) within one month.

Three accomplices, Ismail Shaheem, Mohamed Meead and Anas Anees, received ten years.

Two men affiliated with the network – Hussain Athif and Abdul Sattar Ali – were also convicted and sentenced to 18 years and MVR 75,000 (US$4860) in fines.

Shafaz was arrested in 2011 as part of the two-year long “Operation Challenge,” combating the drug network.

800 grams of heroin were seized by police from Shafaz’s apartment, and opiates were confiscated from an apartment rented by an affiliate of the network.

The conviction came on the strength of recorded phone calls and financial transactions with a contact in Colombo, believed to be the supplier.

The network had been operating since 2006.

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Two arrested for stealing laptop and cash

A 21 and 24 year-old have been arrested by the Maldivian Police Service (MPS) on suspicion of stealing a laptop and cash, Sun Online reports.

A laptop and MVR 100 000 were burgled from a house on Kunahandhoo in Laamu atoll on Friday afternoon.

The suspects were arrested during the subsequent manhunt.

Both were arrested on Laamu Kunahandhoo

Maldives Police Service has arrested two individuals on suspicion of stealing a laptop and a large amount of cash from a house in Laamu Kunahandhoo yesterday afternoon.

Police revealed one individual as a 21-year-old and the other a 24-year-old, and said both have records of theft and robbery.

The two people were arrested during a manhunt for suspects. They are suspected of stealing a total of MVR 100,000 in cash, in addition to the laptop.

The 21 year old individual was arrested today and the 24 year old early this morning, police said. Both men were arrested under court warrants in Laamu Kunahandhoo.

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Five MDP protestors arrested yesterday

Five individuals were arrested during yesterday’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests against the Supreme Court, reports local media.

Police arrested four people from the demonstration held near the Supreme Court yesterday afternoon and one individual was arrested last night during the MDP’s protest against the court’s injunction to indefinitely delay the presidential election’s runoff.

A police media official would not disclose to CNM whether the five arrested individuals remain in police custody.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) told CNM that “major changes” regarding the “disclosure of information” have been enacted – on the advice of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

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Police arrest third suspect in connection to Artur brothers investigation

Police in the Maldives have confirmed the arrest of a third suspect linked to ongoing investigations into the alleged criminal activities of two foreign nationals identified as the Artur brothers.

A police media spokesperson confirmed that 28 year-old Maldives national Ahmed Vishal had been taken into custody yesterday (June 2) on suspicion of being connected – in an as yet unspecified way – to the Artur brothers’ operations in the country.  The Arturs have come under scrutiny from Maldives authorities after being linked in local media with alleged drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets and other serious crimes in Kenya.

Police declined to give more details on the specific charges against Visham, who was reported in local media as having been detained on a sixth floor apartment of a building in Male’.

Visham is the third suspect along with fellow Maldivian Ahmed Nishan and French national Godzine Sargsyan to be detained by police in relation to investigation into the Artur Brother’s presence in the country.

Police issued a statement in April asking for public assistance in locating Godzine, who along with Nishan later surrendered themselves to authorities.  Police officers then proceeded to conduct a search of the Marble Guest House in Male’ where the suspects were alleged to have stayed.

The Criminal Court last month agreed to extend the detention of both Nishan and Godzine, who has been identified by authorities as one of the Artur brothers.

The court stated at the time that police had charged the pair with assault and battery, cases related to fraud, and providing invalid documents to government institutions.

Photos

Photos of the Arturs in the company of the two Maldivian ministers emerged on social media, apparently taken during the Piston Motor Racing Challenge held on Hulhumale’ between January 25 and 26.

A letter from the Tourism Ministry to immigration authorities requesting a residency visa for Margaryan and Sargayan Artur, dated January 27 and signed by Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb, was subsequently leaked on social media.

A company named ‘Artur Brothers World Connections’ was registered in the Maldives in October 2012, with the Artur brothers holding an 80 percent share in a 61-19 percent split.

French nationals identified as Godzine Sargsyan and Edga Sargsyan had a 10 and 7 percent share, while a Maldivian national Ismail Waseem of H. Ever Chance was listed as holding the remaining 3 percent.

Waseem’s share was subsequently transferred to Abdulla Shaffath of H. Ever Peace on November 25.

Meanwhile, on April 8, reports in local media suggested that Zaidul Khaleel, General Manager of the Club Faru resort, operated by the state-owned Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), had been dismissed after he was found to have paid the brothers’ US$6000 bill.

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