Eight police officers testified at the Criminal Court today against several defendants accused of setting fire to a police station in Addu City on February 8, 2012.
At today’s hearing, the police officers reportedly identified the accused and testified that they had thrown stones at police officers blocking the causeway between Feydhoo and Gan and had broken through police lines before entering Gan police station.
The officers also claimed some of the defendants had bragged about setting the station on fire.
More than 80 people from Addu City are currently on trial – charged with terrorism – for acts of arson on February 8, 2012, which saw police vehicles, courts and police stations torched in the southernmost atoll.
Some 89 individuals from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll are also facing terrorism charges. The atoll council office, court building, police station and several police vehicles were set on fire in Thinadhoo on February 8.
The Criminal Court yesterday issued a warrant ordering police to hold 12 defendants from Thinadhoo and one from Gahdhoo – including Thinadhoo island council member Abdulla Saneef – in detention pending the outcome of the trial after they failed to attend a previous hearing.
The accused were presented to court under police custody yesterday.
Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed reportedly asked the accused to submit their justifications in writing for the court to reconsider the decision.
Following its investigation into the nationwide unrest and violence on February 8, the police forwarded over 100 cases to the Prosecutor General’s 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.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed and Chief Inspector of Upper South Division Mohamed Basheer were summoned to the court last night to explain why police failed to execute an earlier order by the court to bring suspects to face trial.
The court has previously said it was facing difficulties summoning defendants from the southern atolls as well as housing and feeding the accused. Under the Judicature Act, terrorism trials must be conducted at the Criminal Court in Malé.
Speaking at parliament today, Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Thinadhoo North Saudhulla Hilmy accused opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV of inflaming passions and inciting violence by falsely reporting on February 8 that MDP MPs had been killed by the security forces.
Raajje TV has since denied the allegations.
In a press release issued on September 18 after the hearings were scheduled – following a hiatus of over a year – the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) contended that the trials against dozens of the party’s members and supporters 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.
On February 8, 2012, riots spread across the country following a brutal crackdown on an MDP march in the capital.
Thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé in a protest march after former President Mohamed Nasheed declared his resignation the previous day had come “under duress” in a “coup d’etat”instigated by mutinying police officers of the Special Operations (SO).
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.
Al Jazeera filmed parts of the crackdown, reporting that “police and military charged, beating demonstrators as they ran – women, the elderly, [with] dozens left nursing their wounds”. The BBC meanwhile reported “a baton charge by police on crowds gathered outside one of the main hospitals.”
Amnesty International warned that failure to prosecute police officers accused of human rights abuses and “serious failings in the justice system entrenched impunity”.
Moreover, former PIC Chair Shahinda Ismail told Minivan News in September 2012 that a staff sergeant caught on tape kicking a fallen demonstrator “was promoted after this incident.”
In February this year, Shahinda told Minivan News that detainees arrested in Addu City on February 9 were “forced to walk on smoldering coals”.