Police declare opposition protests not peaceful, threatens crackdown

The ongoing nightly protests by the opposition ‘Alliance against brutality’ are not peaceful, police have declared, claiming protesters were assaulting police officers and planning to carry out acts of arson in Malé.

At a press briefing on Thursday (March 26), Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz said speakers at the demonstrations were inciting violence and that protesters have repeatedly broken through police lines, disobeyed police orders, and obstructed police duty.

Protesters have also “thrown rocks, glass and lead balls at police ranks,” and attempted to cause physical harm to police officers, he alleged.

During the past two nights (March 24 and 25), Nawaz claimed that speakers “openly” called for subverting peace and security, and “encouraged breaking laws and regulations.”

Nawaz warned that police would disperse protests “without further warning” if protesters attempt to forcibly enter barricaded zones.

Moreover, a decision has been made to disperse protests after prior warning “if any unlawful actions take place to any extent during protests after Saturday night, or if we see such actions are about to take place,” he warned.

The nightly protests first began after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) allied against the government’s alleged breaches of the constitution on February 12 – two days after the arrest of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of weapons possession. Tensions escalated further with the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22.

Following Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges on March 13, the MDP accepted an invitation by Adhaalath Party (AP) President Sheikh Imran Abdulla to form a united front against the government’s “brutality” and continued protests this week under the banner “Alliance Against Brutality.”

Shortly after the police press conference, the Elections Commission (EC) announced that it has fined the MDP and AP for allegedly attacking police officers, damaging private property, and inciting violence in violation of laws governing freedom of assembly and political parties.

The MDP and AP were fined MVR47,000 (US$3,047) and MVR33,000 (US$2,140), respectively, and ordered to pay the fine within seven days.

In a letter to the parties, the EC warned that further action would be taken if “such actions are repeated in protests conducted by the parties”.

Police and EC meeting today
Police and EC meeting today

Peaceful assembly

Nawaz meanwhile claimed that individual police officers have been confronted and intimidated at their homes, adding that efforts were underway to “psychologically weaken” police personnel.

Police vehicles and private property have also been damaged, he added.

Nawaz revealed that 162 protesters have been arrested so far and police have forwarded cases involving 95 protesters, including two MPs, to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The Criminal Court has also released 62 protesters on the condition that they do not participate in protests for a determined period. Of these, two have subsequently been arrested for attending protests.

Nawaz said the 2013 Freedom of Assembly Act requires protests to be held to achieve a peaceful purpose and be free of violence or any form of incitement to violence.

He noted that the opposition alliance had not notified police prior to any of the nightly protests, which he said has prompted complaints from the public and businesses due to blocked roads and disruptions to public order and safety.

Nawaz also accused certain media outlets of attempting to falsely portray police as brutal towards civilians and said the media cut off live feed when protesters attacked police officers. He warned the police would arrest media personnel if they obstruct police duty.

If police officers violated the law during protests, Nawaz invited political parties and the public to lodge complaints at the relevant oversight bodies.

Meanwhile, at a separate press briefing on Wednesday, Chief Superintendent of Police Ismail Naveen said police intelligence has learned of planned acts of arson and other plots to “create fear in the hearts of the people.”

The recent spike in violence against expatriates – which saw two Bangladeshis murdered and four expatriates stabbed this week – was “planned”, he said.

According to police media, Naveen met officials of the EC, Police Integrity Commission, and Human Rights Commission of Maldives on Thursday in “emergency meetings” held to share concerns regarding “turmoil on the streets of Malé planned and carried out by political parties” and discuss counter measures.

Businesses in the capital were facing “irrevocable economic losses” due to the protests and police resources were diverted from law enforcement, Naveen told the independent commissions.

If protesters use loudspeakers after 11:00pm and continue protests after 12:00am in defiance of orders by police – invoking powers under the freedom of assembly law – Naveen said police were considering “not allowing the opportunity to continue these gatherings”.

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Government to compensate police officers for damages on February 8 unrest

The government will compensate police officers for damages incurred during nationwide unrest on February 8, 2012, Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed has announced.

According to police media, Waheed gave information concerning the planned compensation to senior officers at a meeting of the police management board today.

Waheed said individual police officers stationed across the country have yet to be compensated for physical harm and damage to personal property during the February 8 civil unrest.

“However, the commissioner of police said the government has now decided to arrange compensation very soon for police officers who suffered damages that day,” police said.

On February 8, thousands of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters led by former President Mohamed Nasheed took to the streets of the capital in protest against a “coup d’etat” they alleged was perpetrated by mutinous elements of the police and military the previous day.

A brutal crackdown on the protest march in Malé sparked riots across the country, which saw police vehicles, courts and police stations torched in Thinadhoo and Addu City. Police officers were forced off several other islands.

Following an investigation, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) concluded that the heavy-handed police crackdown on the MDP walk was “brutal” and “without warning” while the “disproportionate” use of force left dozens of demonstrators injured and hospitalised.


cars on fireMore than 160 people from the southern atolls are currently facing terrorism charges for the acts of arson.

In addition to police motorbikes, police said today that phones, laptops, valuables, and other personal belongings such as clothes were also set on fire and completely destroyed during the unrest.

Several police officers were left with only the clothes they were wearing, police said.

Last month, the government decided to reinstate a discontinued service and merit allowance for both police and military personnel.

The allowances were discontinued in 2009 during former President Nasheed’s administration.

Security services personnel who have served between ten and 20 years were eligible for the service allowance, while policemen and army officers who have attained higher education were to be eligible for a professional allowance.

A similar allowance was to be given to officials who have undergone training related to their fields.


Two MDP activists arrested on allegations of planning arson attacks

Police arrested two opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists on allegations of planning acts of arson on Friday night.

Shiyan Shafeeq ‘Shiyalhey’ and ‘Maalimee’ Ibrahim Ahmed were arrested on Friday night (March 13) during an MDP protest ahead of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges.

Nasheed was found guilty of ordering the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012 and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

According to local media, the Criminal Court on Saturday extended the pair’s remand detention to ten days.

Police arrested 13 other protesters on Friday night, all of whom have since been released from custody.

Shiyalhey was also arrested in 2012 on allegations of disrupting public order, attacking security services personnel, and causing disturbances during anti-government demonstrations.


55 Thinadhoo arson suspects detained until end of trial

Fifty-five of the eighty-nine individuals facing terrorism charges in relations to violence in Gaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo on February 8, 2012, have been detained until the end of the trial.

Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed told the court today that information had been received regarding the intimidation of witnesses, prompting the decision to hold a number of suspects until proceedings are completed.

The island’s atoll council office, its court building, police station, and several police vehicles were set on fire following the contested resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7, 2012.

Nine policemen were attacked, while police officials at the time declared the area unsafe for local policemen as Maldivian Democratic Party supporters had threatened to attack the residences of policemen.”

MDP lawyer Hisaan Hussain criticised today’s decision, saying: “We condemn this collective punishment which is not in line with our constitution or international law.”

Another lawyers familiar with case described the decision as “most unusual”,noting that the identities of state witnesses are not disclosed and have their voices disguised in order to protect their identity.

Defence lawyers have requested a written copy of the order to begin the appeal process but have yet to be provided with the relevant documents.

Hearings in the case began on October 1, while the trial of juvenile offenders in the same case is also nearing completion this month. Around 80 people are also currently facing terrorism charges in relation to unrest in Addu during the same period.

Acts of arson are considered terrorism under the Terrorism Prevention Act enacted by the administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The offence carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.

The MDP has contended that the trials against dozens of the party’s members and supporters in Addu City and Thinadhoo were acts of intimidation, accusing the government of threatening to prosecute persons who participate in MDP activities.

Hisaan today also criticised the use of a single judge – Abdulla Mohamed – in the 300-400 cases ongoing in relation to the February 8 unrest, calling the entire process “highly politically motivated”.

The detention of Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012 – following repeated obstruction of investigations into his conduct – led to the intensification of anti-government protests, culminating in policemen mutinying on the evening of February 6.

Related to this story

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Court cancels hearing of suspects charged with terrorist attack on Gan police station

The Criminal Court has today cancelled scheduled hearings into the case against suspects charged with an arson attack on Addu City Gan Police Station on February 8, 2012.

The hearing was cancelled as the Prosecutor General’s Office was unable to summon the witnesses to court.

The suspects have been identified by the court as Ahmed Rasheed of Beachflat house in Maradhoo, Ali Rimaz of Liverpool house in Maradhoo, Hussein Zuhair of Heaven in Hithadhoo and Hassan Naeem of Sunshine in Hithadhoo.

In August 2012, terrorism charges were laid against over 40 individuals accused of setting the Seenu Gan police station on fire, including Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Rasheed and Addu City Councillor Ahmed Mirzadh.

On 10 November 2014, eight police officers testified at the Criminal Court against the accused.


Terrorism trials begin for over 80 individuals from Thinadhoo

Terrorism trials began at the Criminal Court yesterday for 81 individuals from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll accused of setting fire to the island’s police station and court on February 8, 2012.

According to local media, out of 89 individuals facing terrorism charges, 81 were summoned to the court yesterday, all of whom pleaded not guilty. The accused were offered an opportunity to appoint defence lawyers.

The trials began at 10:00am and lasted until 5:30pm as consecutive hearings were held for small groups of defendants. The terrorism trials posed difficulties for other hearings at the court as such a large group of people were summoned on the same day.

The 89 individuals were charged under Article 2 and 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Ali Waheed met a number of the defendants at the party’s office prior to the hearings yesterday.

On February 8, 2012, riots spread across the country following a brutal crackdown on an MDP march in the capital in protest of the controversial transfer of presidential power the day before.

In a press release issued on September 18 after the hearings were scheduled, the MDP contended that the trials against dozens of the party’s members and supporters in Addu City and Thinadhoo were politically-motivated acts of intimidation.

The party also accused the government of threatening to prosecute persons who participate in MDP activities.

The press statement also noted that police officers who committed crimes on February 6, 7 and 8 were not being prosecuted.


Terrorism trials on February 8 arson in Addu City postponed

The trial of 35 people from Addu City charged with terrorism over arson attacks in Addu City on February 8, 2012 resumed at the Criminal Court yesterday after a hiatus of over a year.

Of the 35 individuals charged with setting fire to the Gan police station in the aftermath of the transfer of presidential power, only three were summoned to the court.

The trial was reportedly postponed because the defence lawyers were not provided documents related to the case.

The court has said it was facing difficulties summoning defendants from the southernmost atoll as well as housing and feeding the accused. Under the Judicature Act, terrorism trials must be conducted at the Criminal Court in Malé.

More than 80 people from Addu City are facing terrorism charges for acts of arson on February 8, which saw police vehicles, courts and police stations torched. Riots spread across the country following a brutal crackdown on an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) march in the capital.

In a press release issued on September 18 after the hearings were scheduled, the MDP contended that the trials against dozens of the party’s members and supporters in Addu City and Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo were politically-motivated acts of intimidation.

The party also accused the government of threatening to prosecute persons who participate in MDP activities.

The press statement also noted that police officers who committed crimes on February 6, 7 and 8 were not being prosecuted.


MDP meeting hall set on fire in Haa Dhaal Kuribee

A youth meeting hall (jagaha) of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on the island of Kuribee in Haa Dhaalu atoll was set on fire in the early hours of Friday, local media reports.

Three motorbikes were also set ablaze around 3:30am in what is believed to have been a deliberate act of arson.

One of the motorbikes was reportedly damaged beyond repair while a sound system, two television sets, and two chairs inside the meeting hall were destroyed.

The case is currently under investigation by the police.


Four minors acquitted of terrorism charges

Four minors from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaalu atoll charged with terrorism over arson attacks on February 8, 2012 were acquitted by the Juvenile Court today.

The minors were accused of setting fire to the Thinadhoo police station during protests that erupted across the country in the wake of a brutal police crackdown on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) march in the capital Malé.

MDP supporters took to the streets after former President Mohamed Nasheed declared that his resignation the previous day was “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinous elements of the security forces in collusion with the then-opposition.

A Juvenile Court official told local media today that the minors were found not guilty as the prosecution was unable to prove their culpability based on the testimony of witnesses at the trial.

Witnesses had testified that they saw the minors throwing rocks at the police station and helping to set fire to a police motorcycle. The verdict however noted that none of the witnesses saw any of the rocks hit either a police officer or the station.

Witnesses for the defence insisted that the minors did not participate in the arson attacks although they were present in the area at the time.

The Juvenile Court judge stated in the verdict that the prosecution’s witness testimonies established that the minors were guilty of obstructing the police. However, the judge noted, the court could not alter the charges pressed against the accused for sentencing.

Today’s verdict was delivered more than a year after the terrorism trial began with two recent hearings postponed or canceled.

On February 8, protesters in Thinadhoo – an MDP stronghold in the south – set fire to the island’s police station, magistrate court, atoll council office and all police vehicles.

Nine policemen were assaulted and subsequently treated at the Thinadhoo regional hospital. Police declared at the time that the island was unsafe for police personnel, claiming “MDP supporters have threatened to attack residences of policemen”.

Following its investigation into the nationwide unrest and violence on February 8, the police forwarded over 100 cases to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office, requesting that 108 individuals be charged with terrorism.

Acts of arson are considered terrorism under the Terrorism Prevention Act enacted by the administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The offence carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.

While more than 100 persons were charged with terrorism, most cases currently remain stalled at the Criminal Court.