Riot at Maafushi prison leaves many injured, claim prisoners’ relatives

Family members have claimed that inmates in Maafushi jail were badly beaten by jail officers in a prison riot on Sunday morning at around 12:15 am, after they were allegedly asked to go out to the prison yard and kneel on the ground.

A person familiar with the case told Minivan News that the riot was sparked when jail officers entered Unit 7 while everyone was sleeping.

”An Emergency Support Group (ESG) squad and the Maldives Police Service Serious and Organised Crime Unit, both in full riot kit,  arrived in the middle of the night and demanded the inmates to go out to the yard and kneel down,” he said.

He said when the “barely awake” inmates refused to go outside ”they started confronting the inmates and beating them with their batons, and [the inmates] tried to defend themselves,” he said. ”It was shocking that they suddenly appeared like that in the middle of the night.”

He said claims by the Department of Penitentary and Rehabilitation Service (DPRS)  that the inmates attempted to kidnap a jail officer were “all untrue.”

”It’s true that earlier three inmates in unit 8 jumped over the wall intending to jump into unit 7,” he said, ”but jail officers outside saw them and rang the loudest emergency siren.”

He said the three inmates ran back to their cell in fear.

”That was at the same time President Mohamed Nasheed had just left Maafushi after attending a ceremony held to open a water plant,” he said. ”If the jail officers came to take [the offenders] they could have just called their names and taken them, that’s how they always do it.”

He said that at least 15 of the inmates were badly injured in the riot, “but only three of them were taken to Male’,” he said. ”There are still six seriously injured inmates left in isolation cells in Unit 2, without medical treatment.”

He claimed that one of the inmates in Unit 2 had broken his arm, another had a swollen left eye and many others had bruises on them.

injured inmate
Injured inmate

”There is another man [in isolation] with internal bleeding – he was beaten up because he was the brother of another inmate who confronted jail officers,” the source alleged.

“He has first degree lung cancer and doctors have banned him from being imprisoned in any area where fresh air is not available. The Home Ministry would know about that.”

He claimed that jail officers “often complain that the current government does not provide them new shoes and uniforms like the former government.”

”They have a culture of torturing people,” he claimed. ”They want to have extreme power over inmates, so they pretend they do not have any control over the inmates, that’s what they want to show.”

Another person familiar with the case told Minivan News that the inmates in Unit 7 and Unit 8 were having an argument over a matter that started on Saturday afternoon and went on until that evening.

He confirmed that the three men in Unit 8 climbed over the wall intending to enter Unit 7.

“The jail officers on duty saw them and inmates returned back to Unit 8,” he said. ”But the officers rang the loudest siren, which can be heard throughout the whole island, to make it into a big issue.”

He said the jail officers entered Unit 9 that day around 6:30pm and left.

”Inmates in Unit 9 are very disciplined and well behaved,” he said. ”Jail officers went there and questioned them for about half an hour and left.”

He said that jail officers entered Unit 7 at midnight and demanded they go out to the yard and kneel down.

”It was alright to take those three,” he said, ”but they wanted all the inmates to kneel in the yard.”

The source said the riot last Saturday was a part of “a permanent war between inmates and the ESG.”

”The ESG force was established in 2007 and on their first day after training they beat up many inmates for no reason, shouting ‘We now have the power in Maafushi jail.”’

Head injury

He claimed that three inmates were brought to Male’ yesterday morning and admitted to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

“But there are still inmates injured who have not received any medical treatment,” he claimed.

”The inmates have wives and kids at home waiting for them; a few are moved to Male’ and put under house arrest for rehabilitation and medication, but they are not really ill inmates. Inmates who really need medication are still inside here in the cells.”

The source also claimed rehabilitation and house arrest were drawn randomly by the DPRS  ”like a lucky draw.”

He said many of the jail officers complained the current government was not providing them any services, either.

”They used to provoke the depressed inmates to [do bad things], saying things like: ‘Don’t wait like that, do something.’ The should be called the DRP-S,” he said.

He further claimed that neither rehabilitation or advice were given to prisoners.

”They only know how to beat [the inmates] up. That’s the only service they get [in prison],” he said.

The mother of an inmate hospitalised in IGMH told Minivan News that she received the information about the case on Sunday.

”I went to the Human Right Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and told hem about the incident,” she said. “They called the DPRS who said my son was not injured.”

After contacting many government officials her son was brought to Male’ for treatment yesterday morning at 10:00 am.

”I was there when he arrived, his leg was damaged and he could not even walk,” she said. ”I called the DPRS and asked them to come and see for themselves whether if my son was injured.”

The mother of another inmate told Minivan News that her son’s arm was broken and he had been also was hit in the chest with a baton.

”Last night he had difficulties breathing, and still he has internal bleeding,” she said.

Miniavn News attended IGMH today to ascertain whether inmates had been injured and hospitalised as claimed, and confirmed the presence of three, in wards 7 and 10.

However the journalist was asked to leave by the police, despite  DPRS staff outside previously agreeing that the inmates could be interviewed. ”It was is not visiting time and DPRS has requested you leave,” Minivan News was told. Minivan News observed that police and DRPS officers had removed their name tags.

Human Rights Commission of the Maldives yesterday released a press release after interviewing inmates and jail officers.

Inmate claims he was injured by a baton

HRCM’s report said that no one was seriously injured during the riot, and further claimed that the DPRS jail officers did not have control over the inmates.

”After the survey we conducted we noticed that DPRS officers had no control over the jail and the government had not provided the jail officers enough equipment,” HRCM said.

“The jail does not have any equipment to use in case of fire and there was no security equipment to control inmates out of control,” the statement said.

Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair and Director General of DPRS Mohamed Raheed did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

State Minister for Home Affairs Ahmed Adil said three inmates in Maafushi jail had tried to kidnap a jail officer who entered the cell to serve food to them.

Adil said that 15 jail officers were also injured during the riot.

”The DPRS did not enter the unit all of a sudden at midnight, ” he said. ”[Officers] tried to apprehend and isolate the inmates who tried to kidnap the jail officer.”

He said the inmates then confronted the jail officers.

”They threw stones at the jail officers,” he said, ”they threw anything their hands touched.”

Adil confirmed that six inmates were brought to Male’ for medical treatment.

”One of the inmates had a fracture in his arm and doctors said they needed to operate,” he said, ”but when doctors brought him inside the surgery room they noticed he was drunk and not in a good condition to be operated on, so he was sent away to be brought back later.”