High Court ruling on Usfasgandu ruling not “setback” for government: Home Minister

Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has said that a High Court ruling to uphold a Civil Court order preventing the dismantling of a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest camp at Male’s Usfasgandu area is not a “setback” to efforts to reclaim the land.

The camp was raided last Tuesday (May 29) by police after they obtained a Criminal Court search warrant to search the area under suspicion that criminal practices were performed on the site, including the practice of “black magic”. Under evidence, the warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area had on May 25 thrown a “cursed rooster” at MNDF officers.

Shortly after the raid, the Civil Court ordered a halt to the ongoing removal of the camp with a temporary court injunction, after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation.  The Civil Court decision was later appealed by the state.

The temporary injunction was upheld today though by the High Court, which said there had been no grounds to amend the Civil Court’s order, according to local media.

However, Dr Jameel maintained that the Usfasgandu site, which was leased to the MDP by Male’ City Council (MCC), was in fact the property of the government, a position he claimed would ultimately be supported by the law.

“I am confident that a claim to [Usfasgandu’s] vacant possession will be granted by the courts as it has a clear position in law,” he told Minivan News.

Jameel added that it would not be his responsibility or decision to appeal against the High Court verdict.

“The decision to appeal is a matter for the attorney general to make,” he added.

Black magic

During the police raid of Usfasgandu last week, police collected evidence reported to include pieces of paper with Arabic inscriptions,  incense, a box of unused condoms, a discarded ‘Tiger’ beer can, and a laminated sheet containing photos of police officers marked with ‘ticks’ and ‘crosses’.

Questioned on whether the evidence gathered by police from Usfasgandu – including the alleged black magic paraphernalia – was sufficient to support the legal case to ultimately dismantle the camp in its entirety, Dr Jameel said it was a matter for the police to decide.

“We will have to wait and see for their conclusion on the matter,” he said, also addressing the concern of authorities about black magic being practiced by anti-government protesters: “I do not know whether anybody is more concerned about black magic than those who indulge in such outdated activities.”

MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


The fate of Usfasgandu represents an ongoing stalemate between the Home Ministry and Male’ City Council.

The Housing Ministry initially sought to repossess the area from the Council, which refused to cooperate. The Home Ministry then instructed police to retake the area, who approached the Criminal Court for a warrant. The court initially denied this warrant, stating that the repossession was a civil matter and not within its jurisdiction.

The Home Ministry has argued that leasing the area to a group for political purposes contravenes the deregulation act under which the land was granted to the MCC.

In a precursor to this issue, the previous area at Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu used for the staging of the MDP’s operations, dubbed ‘Justice Square’, was dismantled by police and the MNDF on March 19. The subsequent court case was dismissed on a technicality and, after being re-submitted, has recently been delayed once again following for a similar reason.

The MCC has remained defiant, last month writing to the Police, the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and the Housing Ministry, arguing that the area was fulfilling a pressing need for large numbers of people to conduct political activities without inconveniencing residents of Male’ City. It also dismissed the legal right of the government to claim the area.

The Housing Ministry has recently removed Sultan Park and the artificial beach area from the municipal council’s jurisdiction.


Government and courts block MDP gatherings, as freedom of assembly bill enters the house

Hours after the dismissal of  the MDP’s civil court case challenging last month’s dismantling of its protest camp at the tsunami monument by the police and military, the Housing Ministry had informed Male’ City Council (MCC) of its intention to remove the party from its new base at Usfangandu.

After more than two weeks of hearings, the Civil Court dismissed the case of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) against the state.

The case was dismissed after court said that the party’s interim chairperson Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik did not have the authority to file the case on behalf of the MDP.

Judge Aisha Shujon argued that the court could not verify whether an interim chairperson had been elected and so did not see sufficient grounds to continue with the case.

The initial legal arguments supporting the closure of the camp ranged from charges of illegal activities to claims that the land actually belonged to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). The claim that the MCC did not have the right to lease the land for political purposes has resurfaced in the new challenge against the MDPs latest camp.

After a short media blackout following the security forces entering the camp at Lonuziaaraiy Kolhu, illicit items including alcohol and condoms were displayed to the media as evidence of nefarious activities.

A member of the MDP’s legal team Hissan Hussian said that the court had gone “beyond its jurisdiction” in questioning the internal processes used within the MDP to elect an interim chairperson.

“We argued that the MDP had passed a decree that allowed a person to act as interim chairman and submitted the minutes of the meeting to show that Moosa was nominated,” said Hissan.

“The [court’s] ruling said that these minutes needed certain formalities and so would not recognise them although the court did recognise that the voting took place,” she continued.

Hissan also pointed out the a previous higher court ruling stated that a case, once started, cannot be dismissed on a procedural issue that has no substantive bearing on the case.

The next hearing, scheduled for April 10, was expected to see both sides present their concluding statement.

The case has been re-submitted to the court with the signature of the MDP’s President, Dr Ibrahim Didi.


Shortly after the dismantling of the original camp, the MDP began assembling only a few metres away at Usfasgandu. Crowds attempting to gather in the area behind Dharubaaruge were initially dispersed by police but a permanent stage has now been erected.

Protest marches and demonstrations have once again begun to emerged from the area. Two such marches last weekend, targeting the home of the President and a business belonging to the Vice President, started and finished at Usfangandu.

The MCC has today acknowledged the receipt of a letter from the Housing Ministry informing them that they have until Thursday to remove this new demonstration area.  The letter informs the MCC that if this does not happen, the land will be confiscated by the government.

The Council intends to challenge the government’s assertions that it has breached its regulations in leasing the land to the MDP for political activities. The current lease for the area was due to expire at the end of June.

Former advisor to President Mohamed Nasheed Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail described the dismissal of the court case “highly questionable”, and the threat to remove the MDP from another demonstration site as part of a wider move to stifle all political activity within the country.

“We are concerned about government institutions not working within the law… the courts don’t seem overly concerned,” said Ibra.

Freedom of Assembly

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed last week submitted a Freedom of Assembly bill to the Parliament in an attempt to provide greater clarifications of the rights and responsibilities of both protesters and those policing them.

The most prominent instances of recent confrontations with the security forces have occurred when anti-government groups have attempted to breach the cordoned off area radiating from Republican square.

Breaches and attempted breaches of this zone have resulted in clashes with security forces, ranging from sit-down protests to the deployment of tear-gas, rubber bullets and high powered hoses.

Nasheed says the bill he is introducing is needed to replace the current regulations concerning freedom of assembly which pre-date the current constitution. These regulations are, he understands, currently the subject of a challenge via public petition in the High Court.

“Several parts [of the current regulations] can be challenged for their constitutionality. I am confident that the larger part of these rules will be null and void. They are obsolete.”

The proposed bill is based largely on the guidelines published in 2010 by the European advisory group on constitutional law, the Venice Commission (officially called the European Commission for Democracy Through Law). The guidelines argue that any restrictions to freedom of assembly must consider legality, necessity and proportionality.

The unusual nature of the country, he argued, requires that “absolute” restrictions on static protests remain around the state’s vital institutions, in particular those areas on Republican Square which affect the security forces’ ability to operationalise.  These require an area of 200ft to the front and 50ft to the side of police and military headquarters to be prohibited from static protests, such as sit-downs. Other military barracks require a protective zone of 50ft; other police facilities, 25ft.

The police protest on February 7 that led to the downfall of Nasheed’s government took place outside the MNDF’s headquarters.

Additionally, the bill suggests that a minimum distance of 25ft be kept from mosques, schools, hospitals, court buildings, the President’s Office, the President’s house, and from the Parliament. The proposed bill places no restrictions on moving protests.

The only time-based restritions are those that proscribing protests outside of an individual’s home after 10pm, and those that use loudspeakers after 8pm.

Nasheed was also keen to point out that this bill, and the timing of its submission, was unrelated to the current political situation. He stated that he had been working on the bill since 2010 and had completed a first draft last year.

He was realistic, however, about the difficulties the bill would face.

“People who are protesting will be unhappy with any restrictions… but they should respect the rights of others,” said Nasheed.

Due to the current pace of legislative activity, he said that the bill could take up to a year to be passed.

When asked about the likely success of the bill, he said: “I don’t anticipate anything. All I have done is taken the first step.”


MDP’s Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu case continues

Further specifics of the government’s case against the Madivian Democratic Party (MDP) emerged duing the continuation of the Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu case yesterday.

As the hearings neared their conclusion, the state was given the opportunity to defend itself against the charges levelled against it following the dismantling of the ‘Justice Square’ camp on Monday March 19.

Deputy Solicitor General of Attorney General’s (AG) Office Ahmed Usham, presented video and pictoral evidence to the court which, he argued, proves illegal activity was occurring on the site.

He also told the court that the MDP had breached the terms of the lease agreement with the council, utilising space beyond the boundaries of the agreed upon Tsunami Monument area. This claim was contested by the MDP.

Usham also suggested that the lease was made on the condition that the camp’s activities remained legal, did not disturb the local residents, and were respectful of prayer times; conditions that he argued were breached.

Finally, the government representative suggested that Male’ City Council’s (MCC) lease of the area for political purposes was in contravention of the decentralisation regulation which prohibits the use of public space for political purposes.

The MDP maintains that the seizure cannot be legal if it was not supported by a court order. They also pointed out that the alleged discovery of alcohol in the area had not yet been proven in court.

The case is scheduled to continue on Thursday.


Audio of officer admitting to planting beer at MDP protest “edited”, claims MNDF

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has issued a statement challenging claims made by private broadcaster Raajje TV, which aired a voice recording of a MNDF officer stating that beer cans discovered during the police dismantling of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest camp had been planted by security services.

‘’We do not believe the audio is a voice recording of a MNDF officer that was in  the area that day,’’ the MNDF said in the statement. ‘’We believe that the voice has been edited.’’

MNDF said it condemned attempts to slander the MNDF.

In the voice recording released by Raajje TV, the MNDF officer admits taking beer cans to the area and keeping the beer cans inside a box in the area. He also says that the beer cans were cold when then they were taken to the area.

CEO of Raajje TV Abdulla Rafeeq told Minivan News that the voice recording was “100 percent valid” and “the voice of a member of the armed forces”.

‘’In our news we did not mention whether it was a MNDF officer or Police officer, we only said it was a member of the armed forces,’’ Rafeeq said. ‘’We did not edit the voice recording but we changed the voice to keep the source anonymous.’’

‘’There are other officers of the armed forces that have witnessed the incident,’’ he said. ‘’This officer that gave us the interview said he just could not ignore the matter knowing all this.’’

On March 19, Police and MNDF officers entered the MDP’s protest camp and demolished all evidence of it, taking down the podium, tents, yellow flags, and even repainting the seawall to remove anti-government slogans.

Media was initially ordered to leave the area, but was subsequently readmitted. Police then claimed to have discovered beer cans, homemade alcohol and condoms.

The MDP has since accused the police and MNDF officers of planting the items to discredit the MDP.


Police arrest 13 in violent clash at MDP camp, after police stations vandalised

Police arrested 13 people after clashing with demonstrators at the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s ongoing protest early on Wednesday morning.

The MDP accused police of vandalising the MDP’s protest camp near the tsunami monument and attacking the party’s supporters at 2:45am in the morning.

However police have said they were pursuing a a group of young people on motorcycles who had attacked police buildings that evening, before retreating to the MDP camp

An MDP supporter who witnessed the incident told Minivan News that the police arrived after a group of young people opened a ‘Youth Jagaha’ near the tsunami monument, and then left on motorcycles to ride around the streets.

“They apparently vandalised some police stations during the motorbike ride, and then the police came and attacked the protest camp,’’ he said. ‘’Police destroyed our podium in the area and the sound system, as well as chairs and other property,’’ he claimed.

One young person was thrown into the sea wall and was subsequently taken to hospital.

Police said a group of men armed with knives vandalised police stations in Male’, threatening officers in the traffic police station with knives and destroying a computer monitor. The group also threatened officers inside the Police Iskandhar Koshi.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that police had followed the group to the area on the side of the tsunami monument park furthest from the MDP camp, near the army medical centre, where they had been attacked.

“Police called for backup and by the time the pickup arrived, people were there with stones,” Shiyam said. “When police entered the [camp] to arrest the suspects forcefully, everyone in the area became hostile to police. There was a huge confrontation,” he added.

Several police officers sustained injuries, none serious, he said. Police arrested 13 people and withdrew from the area.

“This was a very serious thing and we are sad that it happened,” Shiyam said. “We have no interest in doing anything [to the MDP camp], and we don’t want to have a confrontation. But people are coming out of the area, committing acts of violence, and going back there to hide, which is not something to be accepted.”

Police had asked organisers of the protest to take responsibility for the actions of those gathered there, he added.

MDP supporters have held an ongoing protest near the tsunami monument, dubbing it ‘justice square’, following the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed in what they contend was a coup d’état.

MDP supporters have been sleeping and gathering in the area since Nasheed’s resignation, reportedly under duress.

The party has meanwhile released  pictures of injured protesters and vandalism of the square.