Police in row with opposition MP over tweet

Police have accused opposition MP Rozaina Adam of posting a photo of a police officer on Twitter to intimidate security personnel.

Rozaina had accused the officer in question of obstructing her car on Wednesday night while she was heading to the parliament for a committee meeting.

The MDP said in a statement today that police officers had refused to remove a barricade set up near Dharumavantha School to allow Rozaina’s car through.

When one officer tried to let the car pass, another officer insisted that they must seek permission from a superior officer, the party said.

However, he removed the barricade after talking on a handheld transceiver.

Rozaina posted a tweet with a photo of the officer, her account of the incident, and an article from the parliamentary privileges law, urging police to “keep officers near barricades after teaching them the law.”

“If we are stopped on the way to Majlis, police will have the opportunity to stop us on the road until a vote is taken,” she argued.

However, police said a fire evacuation drill was ongoing at a nearby school at the time and said the officer had informed the senior officer in charge that a car will be passing through as the students were preparing to rush out.

Police criticized Rozaina for posting the photo of the officer, saying her intent was to intimidate, undermine public confidence in police, and bring the institution into disrepute.

The MDP said the police statement was symptomatic of the politicisation of the institution and its senior officers, whom it accused of bearing personal animosity towards opposition MPs.

The opposition party advised senior officers against exerting “political influence” over junior officers and against encouraging illegal actions.


MDP calls on PG to drop charges against CNM journalist Haseen

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called on Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin as well as the government to drop charges against Channel News Maldives’ (CNM) senior journalist Abdulla Haseen.

“We note with regret that this is the first criminal prosecution of a journalist since the adoption of a democratic constitution in 2008,” the main opposition party said in a press release on Wednesday night (September 3).

Haseen is currently on trial at the Criminal Court on charges of obstructing police duty during an MDP demonstration on July 21, 2012.

The former Minivan Daily reporter is accused of shoving police barricades at the Chandanee Magu-Orchid Magu junction and using obscene language to address riot police officers.

At the first hearing of the trial last week, Haseen pleaded not guilty and noted that he attended political rallies and street protests to cover them as a journalist.

“This is a charge raised deliberately by the state against press freedom,” Haseen told reporters after the hearing.

“And this is an opportunity to experience for myself how the Maldivian criminal justice system functions.”

The court granted a five-day period for Haseen to hire a lawyer.

In addition to Haseen, Abdulla Idrees of Gulfaamuge in Laamu Maavah and former opposition MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor are also facing similar charges. The cases were conducted concurrently during the trial.

The next hearing of the case has been scheduled for September 28.

Press freedom

The MDP expressed concern with the filing of charges over two years after the incident allegedly occurred, noting that obstructing police duty was the most common charge pressed by the state.

“And we note with concern that Abdulla Haseen is being prosecuted at a time when the media in the Maldives is facing serious challenges with journalists assaulted, television stations torched, death threats made against journalists, personal safety of journalists lost, and a journalist believed to have been abducted,” the press statement read.

The party added that the Maldives has plummeted in press freedom indexes of international media organisations and called on the state to ensure security for media personnel.

The Maldives dropped to 108th place in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index for 2014, marking a decline in press freedom for the third consecutive year.

In February 2013, opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV reporter Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed was nearly beaten to death, while the station’s offices and equipment were destroyed in an arson attack in October.

In June 2012, two men slashed the throat of freelance journalist and blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed with a box cutter.

Prior to the country’s first multi-party democratic election in 2008, the Maldives was ranked 104th – an improvement on its 2007 ranking of 129th. The country’s ranking in 2009 and 2010 reflected dramatic improvements in press freedom – including decriminalisation of defamation,  rising to 51st and 52nd respectively.


Nasheed “seeking advice” in Indian High Commission following court order for his arrest

Police have been issued a court order to produce former President Mohamed Nasheed at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court ahead of his trial, scheduled at 4:00pm today.

The former President, who is due to attend a hearing regarding his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012, was inside the Indian High Commission at 1:00pm this afternoon following the announcement of the court order.

Police had set up barricades around the High Commission area at time of press.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef today confirmed that police had received an order to produce the former president at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

“We have received the order and we will be trying to carry it out in accordance with the Maldivian constitution and the order itself,” Haneef said.

The court summons follows Nasheed’s failure to attend his previously scheduled trial hearing at Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on February 10.

The former President was on an official visit to India after being granted permission to depart the country by the court. Despite his permitted travel period expiring on February 9, Nasheed arrived back in Male’ on February 11.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Rasheed at 1:00pm said the former President was inside the Indian High Commission in Male’, “seeking advice” after news of the court order calling for his arrest was made public on Tuesday night.

“He went to the hospital in Male’ this morning and then returned back to his home. After a few minutes he went to the Indian High Commission with a couple of MDP MPs.

“[Nasheed’s] lawyers are not around at the moment, but from what I know they are attempting to appeal the order at the High Court,” Rasheed said.

Last night Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members camped outside the former President’s residence in order to prevent police from entering the narrow street where Nasheed lives.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed  police had intended to arrest Nasheed in secret in order to present him at his court hearing today.

“They [Police] were going to pounce on Nasheed, but we received intelligence about it and let people know what was happening,” Ghafoor said.

“This is pre-2008 procedures. At least one hundred people were outside Nasheed’s residence last night throughout the night,” Hamid told Minivan News today.

Minivan News observed crowds of supporters still filling the street this morning at around 10:30am.

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1:15pm: The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have issued a statement condemning the arrest warrant for Nasheed.

“The MDP reiterates its belief that the arrest warrant and the charges against him are politically motivated and calls on the international community to remain vigilant and immediately intervene to ensure a free and fair trial for President Nasheed,” the party said.

“President Nasheed’s legal team was informed by the Maldives Police Services that the court order was issued to arrest President Nasheed and summon him to the court on 13 February 2013. However, the court has not yet informed him or his legal team of the scheduled hearing.”

1:39pm: Maldives Police Service (MPS) were standing outside the Indian High Commission building in Male’.

The second hearing of the case was scheduled on 10th February 2013 while President Nasheed was on an official visit to India and was unable to return to Male’ due to a medical emergency.

The lawyers informed the court in writing as stated in the court’s regulations. According to the regulations, if the accused is unable to attend the hearing and after informing the court, documentation must be provided to the court within 2 working days.

While time frame to produce the documents has not even passed, and when the documents were being processed, the court issued an arrest warrant on President Nasheed on 11th February 2013. The courts also have an option to fine the accused (MVR 75) for failing to appear before court.

1:59pm: ‘MDP News’ Twitter feed shows woman being apprehended by police outside the High Commission building.

“This highlights, once again, how biased the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is against President Nasheed. This illegal court has no interest in the rule of law, it exists merely to serve the political aims of its paymasters. This trial is a thinly veiled attempt by Dr Wadeed, in cahoots with his friends in the judiciary, to prevent President Nasheed from contesting in the upcoming presidential elections. The regime is fearful of President Nasheed’s popularity, so they are pulling out all the stops to prevent his name appearing on the ballot paper. These forceful measures by the Court are contrary to their usual practice,” said MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

2:43pm: Indian media ‘Times Now Live’ asks: “Will India protect Nasheed?”

3:30pm: Nasheed has tweeted confirming that he is seeking refuge in the Indian High Commission: “Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives.”

Minivan News observed around 200 people gathered near the police barricades. The crowd appeared non-violent but the atmosphere was tense.

3:54pm: Indian media is reporting the Indian government as denying that Nasheed has sought refuge.

4:05pm: Minivan News has observed a police officer armed with a rubber bullet gun deployed outside the High Commission.

4:10pm: MDP MP Ghafoor has said Nasheed is discussing “a transition arrangement, where we can have a free and fair election in September.”

“We have a scenario now we can’t move ahead without a mediator. We prefer India because it is our neighbour and a democratic nation,” he said.

4:23pm: Minivan News understands that no formal request for refuge or asylum has been made at this stage.

4:26pm: An appeal hearing was cancelled after a summoning chit was not able to be delivered to Nasheed.

4:27pm: Riot police appear to have pulled a man out of the crowd and arrested him.

4:49pm: MDP MP and spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has said he was not aware how long the former president planned to remain in the Indian High Commission building.

“This is the safest place for him to be until a solution is found,” he claimed. “I would speculate that a transitional arrangement for fresh elections is being sought.”

Without providing specific examples of how Nasheed’s life was in danger, MP Ghafoor contended there had been threats against the former president going back to when he was first elected in 2008.

“Right now we have militarised Special Operations (SO) police officers running the show. I do not believe [Nasheed] is safe,” he claimed. “50,000 MDP members do not trust the police either.”

After Nasheed was previously taken into police custody ahead of a court hearing back in October 2012, the former president was not reported to have been physically mistreated by authorities during his transfer to Dhoonidhoo detention facility.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said at the time that despite allegations raised by the MDP concerning the alleged use of excessive force by police to seize the former president, authorities had insisted officers had acted with restraint.

“I’m told [Nasheed] asked for a box of cigarettes [in custody], a request that [officers] granted.  He was given Benson and Hedges as I understand,” Masood previously told Minivan News.

Ghafoor also alleged that SO officers also this week entered the home of Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid in what he claimed was an attempt to intimidate the Majlis representative.

Speaker Shahid was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

The Maldives Police Service has vehemently denied allegations it had threatened Shahid in a statement published Saturday (February 9).

5:16pm: Nasheed’s trial hearing scheduled for 4:00pm today has been cancelled after he failed to attend at the specified time.  The Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) confirmed the cancellation. It has yet to be rescheduled.

5:37pm: Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel has tweeted accusing India of meddling in Maldives’ internal affairs:

5:43pm: RaajjeTV reports that the government is to begin negotiating with the Indian High Commission.

5:53pm: President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad has said there has been no contact between the government and the Indian High Commission in Male’ today.

“All I know right know is that Mr Nasheed is in a meeting with Indian High Commissioner Dnyaneshwar M Mulay,” he said. Masood added that a message had been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirming a meeting between former President Nasheed and the high commissioner was taking place.

6:16pm: Local media has reported that the Indian naval vessel ‘Kalpei’ has arrived in the country as part of a joint operation being conducted with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

The ship is said to be taking part in a five day maritime security program that will see it help patrol the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), according to the Sun Online news service.

6:58pm: Mohamed Aslam, former Minister of Housing and Environment in Nasheed’s government, has confirmed that the opposition MDP’s National Council has today approved taking “direct action” against the government.

Aslam said the term ‘direct action’ related to a wide programme of civil disobedience, rather than one specific strategy. “The whole situation is very fluid right now. Nothing will be ruled out,” he said.

“What we are demanding is a transitional government, as well as free and fair elections that would include [former President] Nasheed.”

Aslam claimed that following a march in the capital conducted by MDP supporters on Friday (February 8), there remained widespread public support for Nasheed to contest elections scheduled for September this year.

However, he stopped short of declaring the day’s developments a “turning point” in the party’s calls for early elections. “We always hope that we have reached a turning point, whether it is today or tomorrow,” Aslam said.

7:19: WikiLeaks tweets that Nasheed has done a ‘Julian Assange’ – a reference to the whistleblowing website’s founder who sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden.

7:30pm: Official Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Muaz Ali has told Minivan News that it will not be seeking discussions with the Indian High Commission in Male’ over Nasheed’s presence on its property today.

“We have contacted the commission today. [Indian] Officials confirmed [Nasheed’s] presence and that he had come for a meeting with the high commissioner,” the spokesperson added.

Muaz said that although Nasheed had appeared to have deliberately sought to avoid his trial hearing today, the Foreign Ministry “did not think” there was a need to hold talks on the matter with Indian officials.

7:40pm: Reports on social media suggest that Nasheed’s luggage has been transferred to the Indian High Commission building in Male’. Photo by Ranreendhoo Maldives.

10:10pm: Minivan News has observed more people beginning to gather at the barricades. Crowd is chanting “money money, yes sir” and “baaghee Waheed, hang him”.

One glass bottle has been thrown over the barricade by protesters. Police look like they are preparing to charge.

10:15pm: Bottle was allegedly thrown from Majeediyya School. Police have now entered the crowd.

10:23: Minivan News observed around 700 to 800 hundred people currently at the barricades.

10:25: Former President Nasheed has called for President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik to step down from office and an interim arrangement to be established that would oversee a free and fair presidential election in the Maldives.

“The events of the past year – the mass arrests, the police brutality, the politically motivated trials – demonstrate that Dr Waheed cannot be trusted to hold a free and fair election. Waheed should do the right thing and resign from office. An interim, caretaker government should be established that can lead the Maldives to genuinely free and fair elections, in which all candidates are freely able to compete,” President Nasheed said.

President Nasheed labelled his ongoing trial “a politically motivated sham” and said the Hulhumale’ Magistrates Court – established to hear his case – was illegal and created “with the sole purpose of disqualifying me from standing in the presidential elections.”

President Nasheed said he could not hope to be afforded a fair trial and accused Waheed of “ruling down the barrel of a gun.”

President Nasheed added that “the fate of Maldivian democracy hangs in the balance” and said that “the Maldivian people must not be robbed of their democratic right to elect a leader of their choosing.”

10:42pm: Minivan News has observed around 1,500 now gathered on Sosun Magu.  MDP representatives have vowed to be there “every night” while Nasheed remains in the high commission building.

11:15pm: Several MDP MPs have pledged a first-round victory for Nasheed. Speakers addressing the crowd can be heard from the other end of Sosun Magu, however there is near silence outside the Indian High Commission on Ameer Ahmed Magu, Minivan News has witnessed.

Only the shards from two smashed bottles thrown at police earlier in evening indicate any sign of conflict, while further up Ameer Ahmed Magu, a handful of officers are stationed across the road from the high commission.

11:55pm: Minivan News has observed protesters throwing bottles at police.  Temporary barricades were also hurled at officers as protesters tried to make their way up to the People’s Majlis from Sosun Magu.

11:57pm: Protesters trying to make their way to parliament are met by police charges.

February 14, 00:01am: Protest is officially announced at an end for the night.