State defends lapses in raid on ex-defence minister’s home

State prosecutors have defended the police’s failure to videotape a raid in which a pistol and three bullets were discovered in the ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s apartment.

The retired colonel was sentenced to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges. He maintains he was framed by rogue police officers, and has taken up the police’s failure to follow standard operating procedures as a key argument in an ongoing appeal at the High Court.

But public prosecutor Adam Arif today said that the police can “change the standard operating procedure whenever they want to.”

“The criminal court’s judgment that said police are not required to follow the standard operation procedure is lawful. These procedures set up by the police are subject to change at any time. These procedures are always changing,” he said.

Police officers, who had provided anonymous testimony at the criminal court, admitted they did not videotape the raid as required, and provided conflicting testimony on how and when mandatory photographs were taken.

Nazim also claims officers did not provide him with a copy of the search warrant when SWAT officers first entered his house.

His lawyers have alleged several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses and failure to allow Nazim to mount a proper defense.

The ex-defence minister maintains that the weapons were planted on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb after the pair fell-out over Adeeb’s alleged use of SWAT officers to commit criminal activities. Adeeb has denied the claims.

Nazim’s lawyers told the High Court yesterday that the criminal court had blocked him from mounting a proper defense by refusing to call defence witnesses and blocking defence lawyers from cross-examining state witnesses.

They have also alleged state prosecutors coached witnesses, and said discrepancies in police testimony indicate that police officers had lied under oath.

Responding to Nazim’s arguments today, Arif denied irregularities including that of witness coaching, and insisted that Nazim was allowed to defend himself.

“Interviewing witnesses” before court appearances are done in many democratic countries, Arif said.

He admitted to discrepancies in witness statements, but said the contradictions were not serious enough to undermine the whole case.

“The state provided enough evidence which proved the case at the lower court. We proved that weapons were found at his house. If Nazim cannot prove how the weapons came to be there then it can either be that he smuggled the weapons or made the weapons,” Arif said.

At the criminal court, Nazim had attempted to argue that the 9mm Browning pistol had belonged to a Special Protection Group Corporal, who  had lost it at Shangri-La resort in 2014. When the military promptly dismissed the claim, the criminal court refused to call defence witnesses.

The court also refused to call witnesses to testify to the fall-out between Nazim and Adeeb, and to prove the police’s SWAT team had committed criminal offences before.

Arif today said the criminal court is authorized to bar some witnesses if they appear to be irrelevant, and said the judges had blocked Nazim’s lawyers from cross-examining state witnesses because their questions had “strayed from the subject.”

Along with the weapons, police said they had discovered a pen drive containing documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen. Nazim’s lawyers have also questioned the validity of the documents.

Judges Abdul Ganee, Abdulla Hameed, Shuaib Hussain Zakariyya, Abbas Shareef and Abdul Rauf Ibrahim are overseeing Nazim’s appeal.

Two judges who oversaw Nazim’s trial, Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman, were promoted to the High Court on June 8.

Nazim’s trial also coincided with a terrorism trial against ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13.

He was tried by the same three judges who oversaw Nazim’s trial.

The pair’s imprisonment has triggered a political crisis with daily protests from February through May, two mass demonstrations and hundreds of arrests.

Foreign governments, international organizations including the UN, and civil society groups have criticised the trials for apparent lack of due process. President Yameen, however, insists he has no constitutional authority to release the pair and says they must exhaust all appeal processes.

Nasheed’s lawyers were blocked from filing an appeal when the criminal court failed to issue the required case documents within a shortened 10-day appeal period.

The former president was temporarily transferred to house arrest yesterday.


Malé city councillor dismissed from PPM council over photo with ex-defence minister

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has dismissed Malé city councillor Zaidhul Ameen from the ruling  party’s council, reportedly over a photo with convicted former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

A photograph of Zaidhul Ameen with Nazim and his family in Singapore circulated on social media today. PPM’s deputy secretary general Abdul Aleem is also in the photo.

Nazim was convicted of weapons smuggling charges in March sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The photo was taken while Nazim was in Singapore for medical treatment. The retired colonel returned this week after more than a month in Singapore.

PPM spokesperson MP Ali Arif said Ameen was removed from the party’s council because of a disciplinary issue.

“As far as I know he had two cases against him in the disciplinary committee. The committee investigated the case and decided to expel him,” he said.

Ameen declined to comment on the issue, but said he will release a statement later.

Media reports suggested that he was expelled for “taking a photograph with a man who tried to assassinate the president”.

The police claimed that documents found in a pen drive in Nazim’s apartment contained plans to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, and police chief Hussain Waheed. Nazim has maintained that the weapon and pen drive were planted by police on Adeeb’s orders.

PPM’s deputy secretary general Aleem is also reportedly under investigation by the disciplinary committee, which has yet to determine a penalty.

In March, a solder was demoted after he wrote, “We are with you, Nazim sir,” on his Facebook page.


Convicted ex-defence minister returns after treatment

Convicted ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim returned to Malé today after seeking medical treatment in Singapore.

Officers of the Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) took Nazim into custody as soon as his plane landed around 11:50am. He was taken back to the low-security ‘Asseyri’ jail in Himmafushi.

The retired colonel was found guilty of smuggling weapons and sentenced to 11 years in prison on March 26. Nazim maintains that police planted a pistol in his apartment on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, an allegation that Adeeb denies.

Nazim left for Singapore on April 10 after the MCS authorised a 45-day medical leave based on a doctor’s recommendation for Nazim to undergo tests unavailable in the Maldives.

Speaking to the press at the airport, Nazim’s brother, Adam Azim, said the MCS had not allowed family members a chance to see Nazim at the airport.

“A lot of his family are here to just see him today at his arrival, but that chance has been taken away from us,” he said.

Azim also said the trip proved costly as Nazim was only allowed to go to Singapore where medical costs are high.

Former attorney general Husnu Suood has meanwhile been appointed Nazim’s new lawyer after his previous attorney Maumoon Hameed took a one-month leave of absence to travel overseas.

“I remain utterly convinced that Col Nazim is innocent of the charges against him, that he was framed, and that he was the subject of a wrongful prosecution,” Maumoon Hameed said in a tweet today.

Suood told Minivan News that a preliminary hearing of Nazim’s appeal at the High Court is due to take place this week. The appeal was filed two weeks ago.

The hearing was postponed due to the change in attorney, he said.

Azim meanwhile expressed hope that Nazim will receive a fair hearing at the High Court appeal process. If the government does not unduly influence proceedings, Azim said the family hopes Nazim will be exonerated and freed from custody.

“Unlike at the criminal court, we hope that the procedures at the High Court will be fair and just,” he said.

“It is believed internationally and domestically that he is innocent, if the trial proceeds justly, we are a 100 percent sure that Colonel Nazim will walk out a free man that will go on to serve the people.”

Nazim’s family had previously said “there is no hope for a fair trial” due to a “notoriously politicised judiciary,” and said Nazim had “fallen foul of a political conspiracy, one in which powerful forces within the government have sought to destroy him and prevent him from challenging the leadership of the ruling party.”



Opposition invites civil society to join anti-government May Day rally

The opposition alliance has invited civil society groups and worker’s associations to join its anti-government May Day mass rally.

NGOs and civil society organisations have a responsibility to bring an end to the alleged injustices of the current administration, former deputy gender minister Sidhaatha Shareef told the press today.

“The civil society is the fourth power of the state. But today we see the government narrowing their rights to make them useless,” said Sidhatha, a senior member of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The ‘Maldivians against brutality’ alliance, made up of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Adhaalath Party (AP) and leaders of business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoory Party (JP) claims at least 25,000 people will take part in the May Day protest.

Leaders of the alliance have been traveling across the country to rally support ahead of the demonstration, issuing stern warnings to the government and urging opposition supporters to converge on the capital on May 1.

Political tensions have been running high since the sentencing of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence defence minister Mohamed Nazim to 13 years and 11 years in jail, respectively.

Earlier this week, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb challenged the opposition to a confrontation on May 1, prompting fears of a stand-off and civil unrest.

Mauroof Zakir, secretary general of the Tourism Employment Association of Maldives (TEAM), told Minivan News that the group will consider accepting the invitation after internal discussions.

“TEAM will analyse what would be the benefits of us joining in the rally. We will look into what the employees of the tourism industry will get from joining them,” he said.

“It is possible TEAM will decide on participating after discussions.”

The influential NGO is currently preparing a petition – with more than 5,000 signatures to date – demanding implementation of the government’s pledges to distribute resort shares to employees and establish a US$600 minimum wage.

Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) said it will not participate in the opposition rally, stating it would affect their credibility as an association free of political influence.

“TAM is currently working on solving problems through negotiations. We wouldn’t want to be seen as an association sided with a political party or influenced by politicians,” said Ali Nazim, the secretary general of TAM.

Meanwhile, Sobah Rasheed, a senior JP member, said at today’s press conference that the political parties and the civil society are working towards a common goal.

“Today, both the civil society and the political parties are working to protect our human rights, to secure our civil rights which are increasingly being diminished by this dictatorial regime,” he said.

“This does not make the NGOs political but rather they are playing a crucial role in saving the nation.”

The government has been “brutal” in consolidating powers, contended former MDP MP Ahmed Easa, a former president of TEAM.

“Everyone knows that the civil service commission is ruled inside the president’s office. That is also brutality. Someone has to stand up for the rights of the civil servants. Trade unions, local NGOs and the political parties have a responsibility to fight for their rights,” he said.


Nazim’s legal team slams Vaguthu over allegedly leaked documents from pen drive

Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s legal team has slammed online news outlet Vaguthu over the publication of leaked documents allegedly obtained from a pen drive confiscated from the retired colonel’s apartment.

Vaguthu claimed today that the documents were shown to lawyers at a closed hearing of Nazim’s ongoing trial on weapons smuggling charges and were leaked “after the legal team took pictures of the documents and sent to close friends.”

In a press statement today, Nazim’s legal team condemned Vaguthu for publishing a story with “blatantly false information.”

“We note that the [allegations of the lawyers] committing illegal acts are baseless falsehoods fabricated with the intention of misleading those who did not attend the court hearings regarding the proceedings,” the press release stated.

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office had submitted plans contained in the pen drive as confidential documents. The pen drive was allegedly confiscated along with a pistol and three bullets during a midnight raid at the then-defence minister’s apartment on January 18.

Nazim’s legal team categorically denied taking photos of the documents, noting that court officers searched lawyers with a hand-held metal detector before entering the courtroom.

As the confidential documents were shown to defence lawyers inside the courtroom and were not released, the legal team noted that lawyers would not have had the opportunity to take photos while court officers, state prosecutors, and judges were present.

Moreover, as the law firm’s offices were in front of the justice building, none of Nazim’s lawyers took their phones to the court hearings, the press release added.

The allegations by Vaguthu journalist Adam Nawaz were intended to unlawfully “challenge justice” in violation of court orders, influence public perception concerning Nazim’s trial and conceal the source of the documents, the legal team contended.

At a hearing on March 11, state prosecutors claimed that plans on the pen drive showed that the then-defence minister was planning to attack President Abdulla Yameen, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, and Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed.

The plans demonstrated Nazim had the “motive and character” to use the pistol and bullets, State Prosecutor Adam Arif told the Criminal Court.

However, Nazim’s lawyers alleged that rogue police officers planted the weapons in a conspiracy engineered by Adeeb. The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) deputy leader subsequently dismissed the allegations as “lies.”

Nazim was sacked from the cabinet after the midnight raid on January 18 and arrested on additional charges of terrorism and treason on February 10.

Pen drive plot

Vaguthu meanwhile claimed to have verified the authenticity of the leaked documents, which allegedly revealed “a huge conspiracy to murder Tourism Minister Adeeb” on February 14 and assassinate President Yameen in Singapore.

“The document indicated that Nazim should advise Adeeb to hold a show on Valentine’s Day and the attack was planned to happen at the show which will put the blame on the extremists and therefore the evidences can be destroyed and as well the attackers could escape,” reads the Vaguthu article.

Adeeb’s assassins or marksmen were to flee on a speedboat in front of the Merry Brown restaurant and spend three days at Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Paradise Island Resort, after which they would be flown to Bangkok, Thailand.

The documents also contained a chart showing the Yameen administration divided into factions led respectively by the president and then-Defence Minister Nazim.

Nazim’s “team” included Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), Home Minister Umar Naseer, former Police Commissioner and current JP MP Abdulla Riyaz, Maldives Ambassador to Malaysia Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA,’ former State Trading Organisation (STO) Managing Director Adam Azim (Nazim’s brother), PPM MP Hussain Manik Dhon Manik, PPM MP Ahmed Nazim, Youth Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, and President’s Office Minister Abdulla Ameen.

“Tourism Minister Adheeb’s connection is extended to Environment Minister Thariq Ibrahim, Attorney General Mohamed Anil and Fisheries Minister Dr. Mohamed Shainy,” Vaguthu stated.

“Minister Adheeb’s connection is further extended to Auditor General Hassan Ziyath, Prosecutor General Muhuthaaz Muhusin, Supreme Court, Progressive Party of Maldives’ PG group, and Anti-corruption Commission.”

The plot allegedly involved Chief of Defence Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam, Vice Chief of Defence Forces Ahmed Mohamed, Gasim’s Villa Group, STO, and an individual identified as “Bodu Boalha Naseem” who was to secure weapons from the MNDF armoury.

After President Yameen is assassinated, Vaguthu claimed that Dr Jameel would assume the presidency and back Nazim’s presidential bid in 2018. Upon winning the election, Nazim would “reconnect with the Zaeem team,” a likely reference to PPM leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“All the government contracts will be assigned to Gasim after Nazim is elected as the President and if necessary, FA Fayaz will get the support from the Thailand’s army,” reads the Vaguthu article.

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Photos from Vaguthu

Related to this story:

State concludes witness testimony in former Defence Minister Nazim’s trial

Ex-defence minister “plotted to attack” president, police chief, tourism minister

PG threatens legal action against Nazim’s lawyers

Adeeb framed Nazim after fallout over Malé City’s Areca palms, lawyers claim

Fingerprints on confiscated pistol did not match Nazim’s, lawyers reveal

Evidence against Nazim consists only of 13 anonymised police statements


Nazim’s family to meet foreign diplomats in Colombo

Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s daughters and brother-in-law have departed to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to brief foreign diplomats regarding the prosecution of the retired colonel on weapons possession charges.

Nazim is currently on trial after police raided his apartment on January 18 and discovered a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. He was subsequently dismissed from the cabinet and arrested on additional charges of treason and terrorism.

According to Vnews, Nazim’s two daughters and brother-in-law, Ismail Hameed, are scheduled to meet ambassadors, charge d’ affairs and high commissioners of Australia, Canada, Germany, United States, Britain, France, Switzerland and the European Union.

The family is also expected to hold a press conference for international media after the meetings.

In late February, Nazim’s family urged the international community to step up pressure on President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, claiming, “there is no hope that Nazim can expect a fair trial” due to a “notoriously politicised judiciary.”

Nazim’s lawyer claim he was “framed” after police planted a pistol and bullets in the then-defence minister’s apartment. However, police have denied the allegations, insisting that “nothing was done in violation of procedures, regulations and laws in the investigation of the case.”


Adeeb framed Nazim after fallout over Malé City’s Areca palms, lawyers claim

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb threatened to “destroy” former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim two months before police raided the retired colonel’s apartment and discovered a pistol and bullets, Nazim’s lawyer has alleged.

Presenting the defence’s opening statement at today’s hearing of Nazim’s trial on charges of weapons possession, Maumoon Hameed claimed Nazim had found out in October last year that Specialist Operations (SO) police officers chopped down the city council’s areca palm trees on Majeedhee Magu on orders from Adeeb.

Upon learning that the defence minister had complained to President Abdulla Yameen of the incident, Hameed claimed Adeeb called and threatened Nazim in a conference call with Home Minister Umar Naseer.

Hameed said Naseer had expressed his displeasure regarding the threats in a text message to President Yameen.

The police professional standards command subsequently discovered that money was deposited to the bank accounts of the SO SWAT team officers, Hameed claimed.

Hameed said the SO officers learned of Nazim’s objections to the president and bore animosity towards the then-defence minister, alleging that the same officers involved in chopping down the areca palm trees comprised the SWAT team that raided Nazim’s apartment in the early hours of January 18.


During the opening statement, Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf repeatedly interrupted Hameed, advised the lawyer not to mention persons not involved in the case, and asked what the allegations had to do with the charges.

Hameed said the basis of the defence was that the evidence against Nazim was “fabricated” in order to “frame” him, alleging that Adeeb – also deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – had planned and orchestrated the setup.

Hameed told the press last week that a police forensic report shared with defence lawyers stated that fingerprints lifted from the weapon did not match either Nazim or any of his family members.

Adeeb had also called Nazim two days before the raid and asked where he lived and how many rooms were in his apartment, Hameed continued, noting that Adeeb had previously been to the apartment for tea.

Judge Bari suggested that Adeeb could have forgotten the address.


Speaking to Minivan News today, Adeeb said he was “very shocked” to hear of the serious allegations, which he dismissed as “all lies” and “very weak”.

Adeeb said he regretted that the trial was becoming “politicised” and suggested that the ex-colonel’s lawyer and not Nazim himself was responsible for the allegations.

Nazim was a close friend, he added, and the pair had discussed official matters up until the former Defence Minister’s arrest.

Adeeb noted that Nazim did not mention any of the allegations at a press conference after his dismissal from the cabinet.

Hameed did not have any experience in criminal defence, Adeeb continued, suggesting that he might bear a grudge for not being appointed Prosecutor General last year.

In July 2014, parliament approved Muhthaz Muhsin as PG after PPM MPs decided to endorse the former Criminal Court judge despite the party’s leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, urging ruling party MPs to vote for his nephew Maumoon Hameed.

Hurried trial

State prosecutors will present anonymous testimony by three officers involved in the raid, a crime scene report by police officer Mohamed Areef, a report on the weapons authenticity by MNDF’s Mohamed Nazeem and a confidential letter from the army stating the pistol and bullets did not belong to the state.

Confidential documents from a pen drive confiscated from Nazim’s apartment will also be presented to show the former Defence Minister harbored the intent to use and was capable of using the pistol, state prosecutor Adam Arif said.

Further evidence includes a statement by Nazim in which he “admitted” the police had discovered the weapons in his presence, Arif continued.

The Prosecutor General’s Office is also awaiting analysis of DNA samples lifted from the weapons, he added.

Hameed, then contended the state had filed charges without completing a full investigation, and appealed to judges’ to dismiss the state’s case.

Noting the Constitution declares any evidence obtained unlawfully as inadmissible, Hameed once again pointed to what he called several irregularities during the police raid.

Judge Yoosuf, however, told Hameed to focus on the content of the evidence, stating the bench had taken note of the defence’s concerns.

The Criminal Court gave Nazim three days to submit evidence in his defense, and denied a request to review its decision to keep the former Defence Minister in police custody until the end of the trial.


Fingerprints on confiscated pistol did not match Nazim’s, lawyers reveal

Fingerprints lifted from a pistol confiscated from Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim’s residence did not match the former defence minister’s print, Nazim’s legal team has revealed.

At a press briefing this afternoon, Nazim’s lawyer, Maumoon Hameed, explained that a police forensic report shared with defence lawyers stated that “latent prints” from the weapon did not match either Nazim or any of his family members.

“This proves that their evidence has no connection to Colonel Mohamed Nazim,” Hameed contended.

Nazim is currently on trial on charges of illegal weapons possession after police raided his apartment on January 18 and discovered a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. Nazim was subsequently dismissed from the cabinet and arrested on additional charges of treason and terrorism.

Hameed noted that the fingerprints must belong to a “third party” but police have not made any attempt to identify the source of the prints during the investigation after receiving the forensic report on January 20.

Police hastily concluded the investigation on February 9 and forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office, Hameed added.

Police have so far not responded to requests for an independent forensic examination of the evidence and other information relating to the case, he noted.

In a statement last month, police denied allegations made by Nazim’s legal team that police planted the pistol in the then-defence minister’s apartment to “frame” him, insisting that “nothing was done in violation of procedures, regulations and laws in the investigation of the case.”

Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz, a former police commissioner and member of Nazim’s legal team, meanwhile questioned why police did not take video footage of the “forced entry” and midnight raid on January 18.

Riyaz also alleged that police did not take fingerprints from Nazim’s bedside drawer.

Riyaz urged President Abdulla Yameen to initiate an independent inquiry into the incident, contending that Nazim should be immediately released in light of the forensic evidence.

Riyaz reiterated that Nazim was being “framed” by political rivals to “destroy his political career,” adding that Nazim’s “unlawful arrest” would be investigated “some day” in the future.

Adhaalath Party Spokesperson Imran Zahir expressed concern over “obstacles to a free and fair trial” for Nazim due to several irregularities in the trial.

Zahir called on the PG office and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to arrange for an open and public trial at a larger venue as only six members of the public were allowed into the Criminal Court to observe proceedings.

While Nazim has offered to bear the expense for a public trial at the Dharubaaruge Convention Center in Malé if the state was unable to do so, judges refused the request at a hearing earlier this week.

Anonymised witnesses

At this week’s hearing of Nazim’s trial on illegal weapons possession, lawyers objected to witness statements from 13 anonymised police officers submitted by the prosecution.

Noting that the PG office has redacted the names of the witnesses as well as other details, Hameed said defence lawyers could neither rebut nor impeach anonymous witnesses as it would be impossible to determine if the officers had in fact been present on the scene during the raid.

The state prosectors’ claim that anonymising the police witnesses to ensure their safety was not a reasonable justification without establishing that either Nazim, his family, or supporters have threatened or intimidated witnesses.

The justification was “laughable” as police have said the SWAT team officers involved in the raid were the most highly-trained in the force, he added.

Hameed questioned the officers’ training “if any of them are trembling with fear of Colonel Nazim, or his wife”, adding that it was more likely that they want to remain anonymous to “impede assessment” of their testimony.

Moreover, police and military officers have openly testified at former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial, Hameed noted, adding that the opposition leader has the support of 45 percent of the electorate.

Hameed accused PG Muhthaz Muhsin of dereliction of duty and failing to protect Nazim’s fundamental rights.

At a High Court hearing on the legitimacy of the search warrant authorising the raid, Hameed said the PG office suggested that the Criminal Court should rule on the legality of the warrant during the trial and the High Court had concurred.

However, Hameed said prosecutors remained silent when Nazim’s lawyers raised the issue at this week’s Criminal Court hearing, after which  Judge Yoosuf Abdul Bari Yousuf had said the defence’s request had been noted and asked Hameed to speak on the evidence itself.

“This goes to show that the Prosecutor General does not want to afford these rights. It shows that the Prosecutor General is attempting to impede Colonel Mohamed Nazim from raising these legal points. We note our concern over this and appeal to [PG] not to act like this,” he said.

Related to this story:

Evidence against Nazim consists only of 13 anonymised police statements

Ex-Defence Minister calls for an open, public trial

No hope for fair trial, says former defense minister’s family

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession


10,000 protest in Malé, call for President Yameen’s resignation

Thousands of opposition supporters marched through Malé calling on President Abdulla Yameen to resign and free “political prisoners.”

Approximately 10,000 people are estimated to have attended the rally organized by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP).

Protesters carried national flags and placards calling for former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and MDP MP Ali Azim’s release.

Nasheed and Nazim are currently in police custody until a verdict is delivered in two separate trials on terrorism charges. Azim was arrested during a protest last week, with police alleging he tested positive for drugs.

While leaders from both parties have insisted in recent days that toppling the government was not the purpose of the mass rally, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed Ali suggested at a march on February 20 that the demonstration would usher in “a second February 7,” referring to the day when former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned in the wake of a police and army mutiny.

However, speaking to reporters after a meeting with senior police officers today, Waheed said the protest would take place within legal bounds, adding that the objective was to show the size of the opposition to the government.

When Waheed announced the end of the rally at 6pm, opposition supporters converged at the Malé City Council Hall, and the Alikilegefaanu and Majeedhee Magu junction near President Yameen’s house. They were calling for Nasheed’s release. At least 31 people were arrested tonight.

Minivan News ceased live updates at 1:00am

1:00am: Police are pushing protesters at Alikilegefaanu Magu junction back towards Malé City Council Hall. Only a few hundred remain on the streets now.

12:20am: Speaking to Minivan News, ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan said the opposition had done a “commendable job” during it’s official march from 4-6pm.

“It was largely peaceful, and a good amount of people turned up. It was very professional, they stuck to the 6pm deadline agreed with the police. MDP has always been able to mobilize large numbers on the streets, they had more impressive numbers in 2012. The numbers today were not at all surprising. They have made their voices heard to the government.”

11:45pm: On its live blog on today’s protests, the police claimed Vice President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives Ahmed Tholal called police “traitors” as he disembarked from a speedboat returning from Dhoonidhoo Island. Tholal had returned from a visit with former President Nasheed. The police have lodged a complaint with the People’s Majlis.

11:26pm: Addressing the crowd at Alikilegefaanu Magu junction, former MP Thasmeen Ali said the opposition has demonstrated it’s strength today, and said supporters must continue the fight. “It may not happen over night. We must remain steadfast. Justice will prevail.”

10:32pm: Two molotov cocktails were hurled into the group of protesters at Alikilegefaanu Magu. No one was hurt. Meanwhile, protesters in front of Malé City Hall a few blocks away have spread mats on the street and have started eating rice pudding. Nasheed’s running mate Musthafa Luthfi told reporters MDP would not step back until Nasheed is released.

9:59pm: Approximately 150 protesters, calling for President Yameen’s resignation and Nasheed’s freedom, remain at the junction of Alikilegefaanu Magu and Majeedhee Magu. Protesters can be seen walking back and forth between Seagull café and Alikilegafaanu Magu junction. Neither the MDP nor JP leadership are present at the protests.

Police have now arrested a total of 31 people from the protests, including two foreigners. Their nationalities are unknown.

9:13pm: Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz said the main aim of this evening’s mass protest was to issue reform demands on President Abdulla Yameen and demonstrate public support for these demands. The ongoing protests are not organized by the party leadership, he continued. Depending on the government’s response tomorrow, the MDP and JP joint commission will restart and scale up activities, he said.

8:57pm: Protesters have scattered. Close to a hundred protesters have now gathered at Seagull café on Chaandhanee Magu and Majeedhee Magu. There are pockets of protesters on Majeedhee Magu.

8:38pm: According to the Maldives Police Services, 28 people have been arrested from the protest.

8:37pm: Minivan News journalists observed police arrest five more people from the protest. They have now cleared the junction of Alikilegefaanu Magu and Majeedhee Magu.

8:26pm: Protesters are alleging police are targeting and arresting protesters instead of arresting the young men who attacked protesters and vandalized Rajje TV’s equipment.

8:23pm: The young men have left now, and police are now pushing protesters away from the junction of Alikilegefaanu Magu and Majeedhee Magu. Protesters are alleging the young men were helping the police break up the protest and clear up the area.

8:19pm: Dozens of young men on 20 motorbikes, some with their faces covered, have charged into the crowd.

8:17pm: Police have now started pushing protesters back and arrested former MP and JP member Dr Ibrahim Didi.

8:08pm: A group of six young men charged into the crowd, attacked protesters and Raajje TV’s cameraman, cutting the station’s live feed. The six have escaped, according to Minivan News journalists on the scene. The police reportedly arrested six men who attempted to obstruct the attackers.

Shortly before the attack, a Minivan News journalist observed a man throw crude oil at riot police officers behind the barricade on Alikilegefaanu Magu. The man fled the area. However, riot police has so far not made any move to disperse the crowd.

7:55pm: “Despite announcing that the protest held this evening jointly by the Maldivian Democratic Party and Jumhooree Party has ended, as participants of the protest are gathering at various locations in Malé and raising their voices, we note that the Maldives Police Service does not believe that the protest that started this evening has ended,” reads an update posted on the police live blog at 7:36pm.

“And if any activity outside legal bounds occur at the present gatherings, the Maldives Police Service believe that the organisers of the protest will have to bear responsibility.”

7:46pm: Protesters remain scattered near the Alikilegefaanu Magu-Majeedhee Magu junction and in front of the city council office. When riot police behind barricades moved into the crowd, protesters drew back. However, riot police did not push the protesters back and have now withdrawn behind barricades.

7:04pm: Two groups of protesters with a gap in between are currently gathered at the Chandanee Magu-Majeedhee Magu junction and in front of the city council office. Some protesters have sat down at both locations. Despite the official announcement that the mass rally has ended, several hundred protesters remain on the streets.

6:57pm: JP MP Ali Hussain has also told Minivan News that the protest will continue until Nasheed and Nazim are released.

6:50pm: Hundreds of protesters are currently headed to the Chandhanee Magu-Majeedhee Magu junction. Protesters on the pickup vowed to continue the protest until Nasheed and Nazim are released.

6:43pm: After announcing the end of the protest, MDP and JP leaders have left the march. However, approximately 100 protesters have gathered behind police barricades near the Maldives Monetary Authority area. Police have blocked entry to the Republic Square.

6:35pm: Home Minister Umar Naseer at 6:21pm: “This is a responsive & a responsible government. We have seen & heard you.”

6:20pm: MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed has announced that the mass rally has now ended, warning the government that the protest will resume if the government does not comply with the 13 demands.

6:13pm: Vnews has reported that PPM MP Hussain Areef has joined the protest march. The MP for Nolhivaram defected to the PPM from the JP in June 2014.

6:12pm: The protest march has stopped near the Social Centre. Speakers continue to demand the release of Nasheed and Nazim.

6:02pm: Protesters are reaching the western end of Majeedhee Magu while the tail end of the march is currently at Chandhanee Magu. The march stretches half the length of the capital’s main thoroughfare.

5:59pm: Protester have issued several demands to the government: Afford all rights enshrined in the constitution; release all political prisoners; withdraw amendment to Audit Act that saw removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim; withdraw politically-motivated charges; investigate allegations of corruption; ensure justice for the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan; provide affordable electricity service; fulfil PPM campaign pledges such as providing MVR10,000 a month to fishermen and farmers; empower local councils; enforce the Fiscal Responsibility Act; increase salaries in the health and education sectors; increase salary across the board before hiking taxes or introducing new taxes.

5:52pm: MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy says President Yameen jailed opposition leader Nasheed because the PPM government lacks public support. Imthiyaz appealed to the security services to observe the size of the opposition to the Yameen administration.

5:45pm: The protest march has stopped in front of the JP headquarters, Maafanu Kunooz. Water bottles were passed out to participants.

5:38pm: Photos from the protest march:

5:28pm: The protest march has started moving forward again. The front of the march has reached Chandhanee Magu.

5:23pm: Addressing the crowd, MDP MP Eva Abdulla says there will be no political negotiation with the government as long as President Nasheed remains in jail. President Yameen cannot rule while the opposition leader is jailed, she said.

5:20pm: Multiple rows of police officers in full riot gear are blocking entry to both sides of Alikilegefaanu Magu.
5:17pm: The protest march currently stretches from the Alikilegefaanu-Majeedhee Magu junction to the Prosecutor General’s Office on Majeedhee Magu.

5:15pm: The march has stopped at the Alikilegefaanu-Majeedhee Magu junction. President Yameen’s residence is located at the southern side of Alikilegefaanu Magu. Protesters at the front of the march are carrying a large yellow banner with Nazim’s face.

5:12pm: MDP MPs Shahid, Eva Abdulla and Rozaina Adam as well as Chairperson Ali Waheed are at the head of the march. Protesters are calling for the resignation of the “25 percent government.”

5:07pm: The protest march currently stretches from Sosun Magu to the artificial beach stage on the eastern end of Majeedhee Magu.

5:05: Protesters are calling on the government to withdraw politically-motivated charges against opposition politicians, stop police brutality and respect the constitution.

MDP MP Abdulla Shahid is currently addressing the gathering. The government cannot “hijack democracy,” the former speaker of parliament said, calling for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation.

The PPM government is “weak” and will fall, he said, reiterating calls for Nasheed and Nazim’s release.

5:00pm: Protesters are calling for the immediate release of former President Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

4:55pm: Police say they’ve found more weapons, including a machete, three knives and pieces of metal.

4:47pm: Thousands of protesters are now marching westward on Majeedhee Magu.

4:31pm: Police claimed to have found weapons in the western corner of the Usfasgandu around 3:50pm, including iron rods and two large knives.

“The items were found hidden in a gunny bag while searching the area based on police intelligence information,” reads a live blog on the police site.

4:26pm: Police officers are searching the area near Dharubaaruge convention centre. Minivan News journalists observed police searching the bushes in the open area and empty trash cans.

4:25pm: The JP has issued a press release stating that the mass rally will take place from 4 to 6pm today. The crowd will disperse before Maghrib prayers.

4:20pm: While the security services last night threatened legal action against protesters arriving in the capital from the atolls, police have said no vessel en route to Malé have been impeded.

However, marine police have inspected boats to ensure safety standards, police said.

Meanwhile, roads leading to the police and military headquarters have been closed to traffic.