The newly appointed Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel has warned of filing terrorism charges against those arrested over the destruction of public and police property during Wednesday’s late-night protests, which erupted across 10 islands in six atolls after the police attacked Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters’ peaceful march in Male’
Dr Jameel, the deputy leader of minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), was investigated by Nasheed’s government for ‘hate speech’ after his party published a pamphlet entitled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’, alleging that Nasheed’s government was part of a “Jewish Zionist conspiracy” seeking to “spread Christianity” and “undermine Islam in the Maldives”.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Dr Jameel claimed that “MDP is responsible for the unrest” since the crowd beaten by the police had come from a meeting of the MDP national council yesterday afternoon.
Police stations and vehicles on several islands were set on fire or taken over last night by protestors identified by the police and government as “MDP supporters”, while several magistrate courts on the islands and government offices were also burnt down.
“I believe these [attacks] fit as acts of terrorism as stated in the Maldives Terrorism Act,” Dr Jameel contended. “The law states those who commit such acts will face 10-15 years jail sentence or banishment… They will be brought in front of the law successfully and I will make sure it happens for the safety of our people.”
Police Commissioner Abdullah Riyaz who also spoke at the press conference, said that the police are continuing the search for attackers.
“Will utilise all the skills I have and resources at hand, to conduct an evidence based investigation into the attacks and forward the cases to the Prosecutor General’s Office to begin the court trails as soon as possible”, Riyaz added.
Meanwhile, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim Solih rejected the allegations that MDP had instigated the unrest. “We did not do anything wrong,” he claimed.
“All we wanted was to take a peaceful march around Male’. But near the Maldives Monetary Authority [MMA], military armed with shields stopped us from moving forward. And without any warning we were attacked with tear gas, while police Star Force marched in, beating us with batons,” Solih explained.
At least 50 individuals were seen at Male’ hospitals following the crackdown, and images circulating over social media and news outlets show several people with various injuries and blood stained clothes. Government hospital IGMH declared a state of emergency at 6:15pm last evening.
Party Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik was reported to be in critical condition following the attack. Giving an interview to local media Raaje TV from his hospital bed, Moosa claimed security forces “wanted to kill me.”
Nasheed also sustained injuries to his back, hands and head. He was kept in a safe house until some time last night, when he returned to his home in Male’. Although a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Criminal Court this afternoon, Police Commissioner Riyaz has said he will investigate the legality of the court order before taking action.
Following the events, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) released statements, raising concerns over police actions and asking the police not to use brutal force against people.
Riyaz acknowledged the remarks and said the police would use “minimum force” to control such situations.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Dr Jameel contended that “we are not responsible” for the police’s actions yesterday afternoon, as Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and himself assumed their respective posts after the events.