“You will never walk out of here alive”: MDP reveals details of alleged torture of May Day detainees

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused police of torturing and threatening to kill suspects arrested for assaulting a police officer during Friday’s anti-government protest.

Nine suspects have been taken into custody over the assault. Video footage shows protesters tripping and kicking a Specialist Operations (SO) officer and one man hitting the policeman over the head with his baton.

The MDP said Moosa Sharmeel, 35, was arrested from his home in Malé by policemen in plainclothes and severely beaten in front of his wife and children.

“He was taken to police headquarters where he was beaten again. The detainee reports that the policemen inside the building, including those at the reception counter, cheered on while he was being beaten,” the MDP said in a statement yesterday.

Policemen kept saying “we will kill you” as they beat him, Sharmeel told his lawyer.

“He was shoved on the floor and beaten until he lost consciousness. His head smashed open when he was shoved to the floor.”

Police have denied the allegations of torture. A police media official told Minivan News yesterday that lawyers for the detainees have not submitted complaints to the police.

Lawyers and families could also file cases with independent oversight bodies such as the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), the official suggested.

The human rights watchdog is investigating cases of alleged police brutality and custodial abuse.

Nearly 200 protesters were arrested from the 20,000-strong anti-government demonstration, which was the highest number of arrests made from a single protest in over a decade. Some 175 protesters are being held in remand detention for 15 days.

Sharmeel’s lawyer, Abdulla Haseen, told the press yesterday that a police officer intervened and stopped the beating. He was then taken to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and admitted at the intensive care unit for treatment of injuries.

Police denied his requests for a CT scan after he complained of a “foul smelling discharge from his head,” the MDP said.

Haseen said Sharmeel was suffering from chest pains, had difficulty digesting food, and suspects he has internal injuries due to the beating.

Eyewitnesses told Minivan News they saw policemen in plainclothes beating a man around 3:15am on Saturday near the Henveiru stadium, close to Sharmeel’s residence. Seven men, some wearing jerseys and shorts, repeatedly punched and kicked the man and drove off with him in a police van.

The MDP said Sharmeel was not taken to court within 24 hours “as his injuries from the beatings would have been too visible.”

“Instead, he was released near the Malé detention Centre (Atoll Vehi) and immediately shown another arrest warrant and taken into custody again,” the party said.

Police allegedly told Sharmeel he was “arrested for his own safety” and are now claiming “he was beaten inside his home by members of the public who also allegedly transported him to the Police HQ.”

The MDP also said two other suspects, Abdulla Ibad, 32, and Mohamed Rasheed, 52, were also beaten at the police headquarters.

Both detainees reported police threatening to kill them. Rasheed said police “kept saying ‘you will never walk out of here alive again. We will charge you with terrorism, you do not have that much longer to live anyway.'”

The party said other detainees reported beatings on the police vehicle after their arrest.

Former MDP MP Ahmed Easa was allegedly kicked and beaten on the head with batons after he was hauled on to the police vehicle. Minivan News journalists at the scene heard Easa scream from the vehicle packed with SO officers.

Easa was limping when he was brought to the remand hearing on Saturday.

The MDP noted that video footage shows Easa along with other protesters shove off the violent protesters, help the fallen SO officer to his feet, and take him back behind police lines.

Easa and MDP chairperson Ali Waheed were brought to a clinic in Malé last night. The MDP has said police doctors at Dhoonidhoo recommended the pair consult specialist doctors.

Lawyer Fareesha Abdulla said yesterday that three of her clients among the May Day detainees have alleged beatings by police.

The Dhoonidhoo doctor recommended medication for head injuries for one detainee, who says he has not received medicine so far, she said.

Police officers kicked and beat a second detainee with batons on a police vehicle, she said, while an SO officer kicked him on the groin with his knee at the police headquarters.

He has not been provided medicine prescribed by police doctors, she said.

Another detainee with a chronic illness said police were not providing medication at prescribed times, Fareesha said.

The detainee was having seizures due to the lack of medication, she said.


Lawyers accuse police of restricting access to May Day detainees

Lawyers have accused the police of restricting access to protesters arrested from Friday’s anti-government demonstration, and raised concern over packed conditions at the detention center as well as the arrest of pregnant women, senior citizens and nursing mothers.

The main opposition party’s legal team is planning to appeal the 15 day remand detention of over 170 protesters arrested after a crackdown on the 20,000-strong protest.

“Sick people and mothers of infants should be given lighter punishments. These people are not yet convicted they are only under the suspicion of a crime,” said lawyer Fareesha Abdulla at a press conference this afternoon.

The 195 arrests made on Friday was the highest number from a single protest in the past decade.

The criminal court had granted a blanket 15-day extension of detention for 175 protesters, while 19 were released after police failed to present them at court in the 24 hours required by law.

In addition to restricting access, lawyers accused police of holding detainees in overcrowded cells with no ventilation and failing to provide medication at prescribed times.

Amnesty International’s Abbas Faiz says the human rights organization is investigating reports of failure to provide medication to a pregnant woman.

About 12 lawyers visiting the Dhoonidhoo detention centre were kept waiting for hours and were only able to meet about four or five detainees a day before having to leave at sundown, lawyers said.

“The way police have made arrangements there we have faced a number of difficulties in meeting our clients,” said Fareesha.

Lawyers also said police had initially refused to provide a list of detainees and said the legal team gathered details based on calls to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) hotline and by waiting at the criminal court for remand hearings.

Fareesha Abdulla said only one police officer handles paperwork at the Atholhuvehi custodial centre, who had to process forms from lawyers from over 170 detainees.

The police media official today dismissed the opposition’s allegations as “baldfaced lies,” insisting that cells at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre are up to standards.

MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz meanwhile said the detainees included a number of bystanders, including a pizza delivery man, people out shopping, and students on their way to classes.

Shifaz said police were calling families of detainees and saying they did not have lawyers, while MDP women’s wing president Shifa Mohamed claimed police had offered to arrange lawyers for MVR3,000.

The police media official said families were contacted, but denied the claims of seeking money.

“No police officer would do that, we do not do business transactions here. Maybe that is something they do,” the official said.

Lawyer Abdulla Haseen meanwhile noted that the detainees were accused of “confronting police, throwing rocks and bottles, assaulting and harming police, and damaging police vehicles.”

Police had argued at the remand hearings that the detainees posed a danger to society if they were to be released from police custody.

Others were accused of not leaving the protest area despite orders by riot police, Haseen added.

The penalty for “obstructing police duty” for a first time offender was a MVR3,000 fine, Haseen said, adding that 90 percent of the detainees do not have criminal records.

The May Day detainees were treated with unprecedented “harshness” by police and the criminal court, he said, adding that the police had failed to hand over clothing and personal items provided by families of detainees.

Some detainees were still wearing the same clothes from Friday, lawyers said.