Police exhibit video footage of falling plank injuring 17 year-old outside Endherimaage

Police have exhibited video footage of a wooden pole thrown from above injuring a 17 year-old during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest outside former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s residence, Maafanu Endherimaage.

At a press briefing last night, Superintendent Mohamed Jinah said police wished to “reveal the truth” about the incident as “deliberately false allegations have been made against police using the media” to bring the institution into disrepute, and “relentless attempts” had been made to cast aspersions on police and its senior officers.

On Monday, police arrested Gassan Maumoon, son of the former President, on suspicion of hurling the 5-foot block of wood from the Endherimaage building. The Criminal Court however ruled that his arrest was unlawful and ordered his release.

The video footage shows the wooden pole strike the victim on the head and the crowd scattering after other objects were thrown down. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Minivan News journalists observed gravel, hot boiling water and sharp metal objects raining down on protesters.

Jinah said the victim, Hussein Hassan, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo Semy, had to undergo brain surgery to repair damage to his skull and “one side of his body is paralysed.”

Police did not want to reveal such video footage to the public lightly, said Jinah, but did so in this case because “many people have been using different media to claim that [the incident] never happened and make serious allegations against police contrary to the truth of the matter to bring the institution into disrepute.”

Police were also investigating damage caused to private property during the MDP protest and ascertaining the cost of the damages, Jinah said, adding however that police had not been provided security camera footage from residences in the area upon request.

Two MDP activists were arrested on suspicion of causing damage to the former President’s residence and adjoining houses. The pair have since been released after interrogation despite the Criminal Court extending their arrest for five days.

Of the two cases under investigation, said Jinah, “the most important and serious matter” was the “life-threatening” incident that left the 17-year-old hospitalised.

“We had reasons to implicate Gassan Maumoon in this matter,” Jinah said, adding that police had statements from eight witnesses who saw Gassan on the balcony as well as photos taken by a police forensic team of wooden poles inside the Endherimaage building Thursday night.

In addition to eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence, said Jinah, the “most important reason” for suspecting Gassan was his admission upon questioning that he did step out to the balcony.

When Gassan let slip that he was on the balcony, Jinah said “after a gesture from his lawyer he then exercised the right to remain silent.”

“When a police investigation team gets such information, there is no reason not to suspect a person of committing a crime,” he asserted.

The Criminal Court’s decision to order Gassan’s release was not based on the evidence submitted but “a procedural point” argued by the legal team of the accused.

Gassan’s lawyers filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus, or release from unlawful arrest, before police were due to take the former President’s son before the Criminal Court for an extension of detention.

The Criminal Court has since imposed a one-month travel ban upon request by police.

Meanwhile in a video message released before his arrest with footage from opposition-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV, Gassan denied the allegations and said he heard the protesters call for Gayoom to be “brought out, killed and dragged through the street.”

“At this dangerous moment, my priority was to take my father and mother to what I saw as the safest place in the house,” he said. “Afterwards, I called Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh and asked for help to save us. However we haven’t seen those who committed this atrocity taken for interrogation.”

After being summoned for questioning on Saturday, Gassan noted that police informed his lawyer by phone that a second summons chit was cancelled.

However, a third chit was issued the night before his arrest: “We believe that a third chit came to me after the government directly influenced police and ordered them,” he said.

Asked about the circumstances surrounding Gassan’s arrest, Jinah said Gassan was summoned a second time after receiving new information.

“We decided to take him into custody at the police headquarters,” he said. “If a person cannot be arrested at a police office, I don’t believe we can arrest a person on the street either.”


Criminal Court rules Gassan arrest unlawful

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed ruled tonight that police arrested Gassan Maumoon in violation of the constitution and a Supreme Court precedent establishing criminal justice procedures after his lawyers filed an application for a writ of ‘habeas corpus’, or release from unlawful detention.

After the case was filed this afternoon, the court issued an order to the police to bring Gassan to the court before 4:00pm today.

Gassan’s legal team, including former Attorney General Azima Shukoor and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim ‘Wadde’, argued that Gassan’s arrest after being summoned to police headquarters at 10:00am was in violation of article 46 of the constitution.

Article 46 states, “No person shall be arrested or detained for an offence unless the arresting officer observes the offence being committed, or has reasonable and probable grounds or evidence to believe the person has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence, or under the authority of an arrest warrant issued by the court.”

Gassan’s legal team also claimed procedural violations in the arrest based on the precedent established by a Supreme Court ruling (page 11 point 11) in July 2010 overturning a High Court ruling extending the arrest of MPs Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim.

Azima argued that the precedent established that the burden of proof falls on the state before arresting suspects.

Noting that police did not seek a court order for Gassan’s arrest, which was the “established norm,” Azima said the circumstances of his arrest did not fall under exceptions provided for in the constitution where police could arrest suspects without an arrest warrant.

Gassan’s lawyers noted that he was arrested four days after the incident took place.

In the absence of a Criminal Procedures Act, said Azima, the precedent should be followed in interpreting article 46 of the constitution.

Moreover, she added, Gassan was arrested through “deception” as “my client did not present himself to police to be arrested.”

Gassan was first summoned for questioning last Saturday concerning disturbances outside his residence Endherimaage on Thursday during a protest by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The protesters were calling for judicial reform, alleging that the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) were subject to political manipulation by the opposition and members of the former government.

During the protest a 17-year-old boy was struck on the head with a wooden plank allegedly thrown from Endherimaage while protesters led by MDP MPs, councillors and senior members were outside the former President’s residence.

Responding to Azima’s arguments at court today, Police Superintendent Mohamed Jinah insisted that the arrest was lawful as police had reasonable grounds to suspect Gassan had committed a crime and were prepared to submit early evidence.

If Gassan’s arrest was unlawful, said Jinah, “everyone police have arrested and brought before the court [for extension of detention] was arrested in violation of the constitution.”

Jinah suggested that Gassan’s legal team was “concerned that we might present evidence” and that the legal argument bore “no weight.”

The top police attorney submitted documents containing early evidence for the judge’s considering, including a medical report of the injuries sustained by the 17-year-old, photos, witness statements and “evidence we collected from the scene.”

The evidence was submitted despite the hearing being held on the case filed by Gassan’s lawyers contesting the legality of his arrest. Police were due to bring the former President’s son before court at 7:00pm to determine if his detention could be extended.

Jinah said police had reason to believe the investigation could be compromised if Gassan was released from custody.

Although the early evidence was not shared with the defence counsels, Azima argued that witness statements were invalid as they would have come from “people participating in an unlawful assembly.”

When Azima contended that the police claims conflicted with media reports on Thursday’s incidents, Jinah noted that “different media reported the same incident in very different ways.”

Gassan’s lawyers meanwhile submitted as counter-evidence photographs and video footage showing an MDP protester carrying a wooden plank. The footage was first aired on private broadcaster DhiTV challenging the MDP’s contention that the wooden plank was hurled from a second floor balcony of Maafanu Endherigas.

Azima argued that the nature of the evidence submitted was not enough “to establish a causal link between the suspect and the crime.”

When Gassan’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed criticised police for not examining “publicly available video footage,” Jinah said police had requested video footage from media outlets as well as footage caught on private security cameras.

Supporters of the former President’s newly-formed Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) were camped outside the Justice building for the duration of the hearing carrying “Free Gassan” placards and celebrated with loud cheering when Gassan emerged from court.

Later in the day, activists of the ruling party gathered to protest outside the Supreme Court behind police lines. A heavy police presence kept the rival protesters at opposite ends of the court building.


MDP calls for justice for 17-year-old injured outside Endherimaage

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned “the uncivilised, cowardly and inhumane attack” on 17-year-old Hussein Hassan, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo Semy, who was struck on the head with a wooden plank allegedly thrown from Maafanu Endherimaage, residence of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

An MDP protest against the judiciary last Thursday turned violent outside Endherimaage after the 17-year-old was injured from the object, which eyewitnesses claimed was hurled from the second floor balcony of the building while the protesters led by MDP MPs and senior officials were passing below.

In a press statement released today by the MDP parliamentary group, the ruling party said the left side of the boy’s brain was not properly functioning and he could not recall past memories as a result of the injury.

“The Maldivian Democratic Party urges all relevant authorities of the state to bring everyone who took part in this lowly, inhumane act to justice,” it reads. “MDP will be watching how the investigation is progressing very closely and the party would like to assure the family of the injured boy as well as our members that we will take all necessary legal action in this case.”

Minivan News journalists at the scene on Thursday observed gravel, stones, hot water and sharp metals raining down on the protesters from Endherimaage.

The protest quickly turned violent after the boy was rushed to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) by MDP MPs on a passing pickup near Athena cinema. MDP activists threw rocks at Endherimaage, smashed a window and attacked Gayoom supporters blocking the entrance.

Speaking at the MDP Haruge Friday night, former Chairwoman Mariya Ahmed Didi, who was in the front line of the protest march, said the wooden plank that injured the boy was with the police.

“They still haven’t apologised to the people for this,” she said. “This happened in broad daylight from that house [Endherimaage].”

Meanwhile, MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa called on Home Minister Hassan Afeef to resign from his post claiming the Home Ministry and law enforcement agencies were “failed institutions.”

“A wooden door was dropped from the building where former President was living, and Gassam Maumoon was summoned to the police headquarters and was allowed to walk away freely,” Musthafa said. “Letting him get away with it has showed us that the police and the Home Ministry has failed.”

Musthafa, who beat the former President’s son to win the Thimarafushi seat in a re-vote ordered by the High Court, alleged that Gassan was arrested in the UK for a hit-and-run accident where a British citizen died.

“There should be no protection or immunities for any son or daughter of former president because all of them are above 18,” Musthafa said. “Hassan Afeef was afraid of former President, he fears that he might lose his job or something.”

After Musthafa circulated a text message to MPs and Police Commissioner calling for Afeef’s “immediate resignation,”  he said Afeef later sent him a text saying “get lost.”

Afeef told Minivan News today that did not wish to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, local daily Haveeru reports that according to the former President’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim ‘Wadde’, Gassan has been sent a summons chit to appear at the police headquarters at 10:00am tomorrow for further questioning.

Waheed claimed the wooden plank that injured the 17-year-old was thrown by an MDP protester.

After responding to the first summons, Gassan Maumoon told reporters outside police headquarters Saturday afternoon that he exercised the right to remain silent after “it appeared from some of their questions that they were accusing me.”