Former MDP President Dr Didi arrested

Former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) President Dr Ibrahim Didi was arrested on Wednesday for attending opposition protests in violation of a Criminal Court order, reports online news outlet CNM.

Didi was arrested during a protest on February 27 and accused of obstructing police duty. After being held in remand detention for 10 days, the former fisheries minister was released on March 10 on the condition that he not attend protests for 30 days.

Police said Didi was arrested today in connection to an ongoing investigation.

Most people arrested during the ongoing opposition protests are released on the condition that they do not participate in protests for a period determined by the court. Human Rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has described the move as unconstitutional, arguing the condition violated the right to freedom of assembly and expression.


Detention drove home immensity of President Nasheed’s “sacrifice,” says MDP MP Fayyaz

A 15-day incarceration at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre drove home the immensity of President Mohamed Nasheed’s sacrifices for the sake of democracy, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Fayyaz Ismail has said.

The MP for Laamu Gan was arrested during a demonstration on March 6 and held in remand detention after refusing the Criminal Court’s condition for release of not attending protests for 60 days.

“When I came home to my family upon my release, that’s when I realised what President Nasheed had sacrificed before and what he continues to sacrifice,” Fayyaz told Minivan News in an interview today.

People knew of Nasheed’s sacrifices at “an abstract level”, Fayyaz explained, but his own “personal experience” made him realise the hardship the opposition leader has been through.

“Why is he making this sacrifice? For future generations. So we need to do everything we can once again to restore a people’s government,” he said.

Prior to his election in 2008, Nasheed was imprisoned over a dozen times for dissident activities during the 30-year reign of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Fayyaz, who lives with his wife and five-year-old daughter, said his detention was the longest period he had been separated from his family.

He added that it was difficult to explain to his daughter why he had been away from home for so long.

“When they are so young, we do not want to tell them the way their authorities is acting is wrong, otherwise they will be prejudiced towards those institutions. So it was very difficult for me to tell her why her father was away for such a long time,” he said.

The MDP has been protesting in the capital every night since Nasheed’s arrest on February 22.

On March 13, the opposition leader was found guilty of ordering the military to “forcibly abduct” Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Conditional release

Recalling his arrest and remand hearing, Fayyaz said police had requested the Criminal Court judge to extend his detention.

“Since I had no criminal record, the judge ordered my release with a condition of avoiding participation in protests for 60 days,” he said.

“But I refused to accept that condition. I told them protesting was a right guaranteed to me by the Constitution. When I said so, I think the judge was displeased, and he ordered for me to be locked up for another 15 days.”

Fayyaz noted that under the Constitution, an individual could only be held in custody prior to sentencing if there was either a “danger of the accused absconding or not appearing at trial, [for] the protection of the public, or danger of influencing witnesses or tampering with evidence.”

He questioned how the Criminal Court judge could decide he was “suddenly a danger to the society,” just after ordering his release on the condition of staying away from protests.

He advised others arrested during protests to refuse the conditional release and appeal the court’s decision.

“We believe that the judiciary has also been politically influenced. I do not think that anyone with a good conscience could accept that the judiciary is independent,” Fayyaz said.

“So I think the judiciary’s intention behind these conditions is to discourage protesting.”

Fayyaz also said his detention changed the way he perceived the police and gave him hope. He praised the “professionalism and kindness” shown to him by individual officers at the Dhoonidhoo Detention Center.

He suggested that the issue was with “leaders abusing the system” rather than policemen, who he said were “good people.”

Fayyaz said he had not decided to make a principled stand before appearing before the judge for the remand hearing, adding that the defiance “came naturally.”

“Even in my profession as a lawyer, we are seeing corruption and influence into these things. So in such an environment, we have to protest. If we do not protest today, tomorrow we will not be able to even talk like this,” he said.



33 protesters barred from protests for 60 days

The Criminal Court has conditioned the release of 33 opposition protesters arrested last week on their staying home from further protests for 60 days.

Human Rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has described the move as unconstitutional, arguing the condition violated the right to freedom of assembly and expression.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Fayyaz Ismail was remanded for additional 15 days when he refused the Criminal Court’s condition on Saturday.

Supporters have commended Fayyaz’s “bravery,” and called on protesters to follow his example.

MDN Executive Director Shahindha Ismail said a fundamental right could only be limited by a law passed through the People’s Majlis.

“This is not a limitation of rights, but a violation of [the detainee’s] rights to assembly, expression, and free will,” she said.

“The Court can enforce conditions on detainees to ensure a person’s attendance in court. For example, having to obtain a permit from the court when travelling. However, they cannot place a condition asking them to not go to a protest,” she said.

According to the Maldives Police Services, a total of 77 individuals have been arrested from opposition protests since February 27. If individuals released with conditions are seen at protests, the police will take action, a spokesperson said.

The opposition continues to hold nightly protests demanding the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, imprisoned ahead of a trial on terrorism charges over the military detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The opposition leader has denied ordering the judge’s arrest. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

The MDP in February allied with former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) against what they call President Abdulla Yameen’s repeated breaches of the Constitution.

Nasheed was arrested on Februrary 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin alleged he may abscond from the unannounced terrorism trial scheduled for the next day.

Police arrested 26 individuals on March 6 alone. In addition to Fayyaz, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz and former MP Ilyas Labeeb were arrested.

Two journalists from Villa TV and CNM were also briefly detained for allegedly obstructing police duties.

Of the 26 arrested, 21 were brought for remand hearings the next day. The Criminal Court released 18 on the condition they do not participate in further protests.

Shahindha, who also served as the President of the Police Integrity Commission from 2009 to 2012, accused police of using disproportionate force in making arrests, using pepper spray at close range and verbal abuse.

“This is not humane treatment at all, and should not be allowed. The police are reverting back to old times by being brutal and forceful,” she said.

The former police integrity commissioner also expressed concern at reports of police officers refusing to use any identification at protests.

“The alleged reasoning behind this is to prevent personal attacks against individual officers,” said Shahindha. “But there should be some sort of identity on the individuals so independent commissions will be able to hold them accountable, even if it’s a number code.”

She also claimed police were setting up barricades and closing down streets at random. Barricades had been set up outside of green zones in which protests are prohibited.

The police have banned protests near the Malé City Hall until March 15, claiming businesses in the area had been complaining over protesters allegedly disrupting business.

The PIC and Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) must investigate alleged violations, Shahindha said.

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