Court releases Maldivian accused of kidnapping Bangladeshi migrant workers

The criminal court yesterday released a Maldivian man suspected of kidnapping, beating and robbing two Bangladeshi migrant workers.

Police officers broke into a second floor office apartment in Malé in the early hours of Monday morning after receiving reports of the kidnapping and arrested the 34-year-old suspect.

“Police found the two Bangladeshi men aged 23 and 24 in the apartment with noticeable bruises. Our investigations found the two Bangladeshis were robbed of a large sum of money,” said police.

The suspect was released after he was taken before a judge for extension of remand detention.

Police are searching for a Bangladeshi and a group of Maldivians suspected of involvement in the kidnapping.

Minivan News understands the Criminal Court released the suspect citing the lack of an arrest warrant authorising entry into the apartment. The court also said the suspect was not arrested from the crime scene.

However, police said “the suspect was detained at the crime scene.”

The Maldives Police Service with the help of the prosecutor general’s office has since appealed the Criminal Court’s decision to release the man.

According to legal experts, the constitution allows police to enter a private residence without a warrant under special circumstances.

“The constitution provides circumstances for police to enter a household without a warrant if they have sufficient evident of a life being threatened,” said Mohamed Shafaz Wajeeh, a lawyer.

“But establishing the circumstances in court would fall on the institution that wants to extend the period of custody.”

Speaking to Minivan News, the owner of the house in the Galolhu ward where the two Bangladeshis were held captive said the pair were kept at a leased second floor apartment.

“The police came around three in the morning. They called several times to open the door and broke in after the people inside did not respond,” she said.

“I think the Maldivian they arrested was not even sober.”

The leased apartment is the offices of Bisado Maldives, a recruitment and employment agency established in 2014, according to their Facebook page, and Brexco Private Limited, a registered construction company.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM), which provides legal aid to locals and expatriates, expressed concern over the “lack of priority for foreign worker rights”.

“Expatriates are in a vulnerable situation in Maldives. It is very important that society sees and seeks the rights of foreigners at the same level as the locals,” said Ahid Rasheed, a senior project coordinator at TM.

The police also face challenges in successfully closing criminal cases involving foreign workers, the NGO noted.

“In many cases we have seen the sponsors send them back to their countries if any problem arises. So we have difficulties in judicial process, mainly in getting witness statement in courts,” a police media official said.

The former Bangladeshi High Commissioner for Maldives, Selina Mohsin, described the situation of Bangladeshi workers in the country as “bizarre and horrifying” after a spike in violence against migrant workers last month.

A Bangladeshi waiter in a local café was murdered in March and four others stabbed the following week. In 2014, police rescued a Bangladeshi held captive in a migrant workers accommodation block while a chained man was discovered by locals in 2009.

The vice president of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives Ahmed Tholal has described the recent spate of attacks against Bangladeshi workers as “hate crimes”.


Two arrested over murder of Bangladeshi waiter

Police have arrested two Maldivians over the murder of a Bangladeshi waiter by masked men last week which began a spate of violence against expatriate workers.

A 24-year-old man was arrested at around 9.30 pm Monday evening under a court warrant, after a 21-year-old was arrested earlier in the evening, a police statement said.

Both are being held in connection with the killing of Bangladeshi national Shaheen Mia, 25, in the early hours of March 22. The police serious and organised crime department continues to investigate.

Police media officials refused to comment on whether there are additional suspects linked to the murder.

Mia was stabbed near his workplace, Lhiyanu Café in Malé’s Western harbour district, at about 4.00am on March 22 by a group of masked men and stabbed in the chest.

The attack followed a series of repeated threats to the cafe the previous day.

Earlier, a violent confrontation had occurred between Lhiyanu Café staff and a group of young men in the early hours of Saturday morning when the expatriate workers refused to serve coffee free of charge. The group vandalized the café before they left, according to local media.

The same group came to the café at 6:00pm on Saturday and allegedly threatened to burn the place down. Staff had reported all threats to the police.

The murder was followed by a spike in violence towards migrant workers, with four expatriate workers stabbed in the following week.

Two days after Mia’s death, a Bangladeshi national identified as Bilal was found dead in Alif Alif Atoll Thoddoo, naked except for a piece of cloth around his neck.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, Thoddoo Council’s Assistant Director Ali Adam said a suicide was “highly unlikely” as Bilal could not have strangled himself with a piece of cloth.

Following the violence, Bangladeshi workers called for a protest in front of the Bangladeshi High Commission in Malé, but the protest was cancelled after the Department of Immigration threatened to deport protesters and take action against their employers.

The Ministry of Economic Development, citing increasing violence in the capital, has changed the closing times of shops and restaurants to 10.00 pm and 12.00 am respectively.

The Home Ministry meanwhile cancelled earth hour celebrations on March 28, also citing security concerns. Despite the cancellation, a 29 year old man was stabbed in near India Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 82nd anniversary of the Maldives Police Service, Home Minister Umar Naseer said that the government is preparing changes to several laws to increase police powers and remove “loopholes”.


26 arrested in MDP’s all day protests

The Maldives Police Services arrested 26 protesters from opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) “last warning” rally in Malé last night.

MDP MP Fayyaz Ismail, Vice President Mohamed Shifaz, former MP Ilyas Labeeb and three minors were among those arrested between 10:30pm and 1am. Police claimed the protest was not peaceful.

Fayyaz and two others have since been remanded for 15 days. The rest have been released on the condition they do not participate in protests again.

Protesters had called for the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who remains imprisoned amidst a terrorism trial over the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Two journalists from Villa TV and CNM were briefly detained last night for allegedly “obstructing police duties.”

Specialist Operations (SO) officers charged into the crowd of protesters several times throughout the night, using pepper spray indiscriminately.

Meanwhile, approximately 200 MDP supporters took to the seas at 4pm, traveling near Dhoonidhoo Island Detention Center where Nasheed is imprisoned. Hundreds more staged a motor cycle rally in Malé simultaneously.

The MDP claims terrorism charges against Nasheed are politically motivated and have pointed to several irregularities in the trial, including two of the three judges overseeing the trial having provided witness statements during a 2012 investigation into Judge Abdulla’s arrest.

The largest opposition party last week scaled up protests, with letter campaigns, daily protests and motorcycle rallies under the banner “Warning!”


Hundreds set out from Usfasgandu at 9pm, and split at the Majeedhee Magu and Sosun Magu junction. Those on foot headed down Medhuziyarai Magu, while hundreds on motorbikes headed down Majeedhee Magu.

When protesters reached the former presidential palace at Muleeage, SO officers in riot gear charged into the crowd and arrested Shifaz, Fayyaz, and Ilyas. The MDP in a statement immediately condemned the police’s alleged targeting of its leadership.

Police pushed some protesters back to Sosun Magu, and chased others into the narrow lanes behind the People’s Majlis.

Protesters quickly regrouped near the Seagull café on Chaandhanee Magu, but riot police once again pushed them back to Majeedhee Magu.

On a live blog at 11pm, the police claimed masked individuals had threatened to kill police officers. Journalists on the scene observed police made no move to arrest the masked individuals.

The MDP in a statement this morning claimed: “The police have allowed armed gangs, loyal to the government, to attack pro democracy protesters. There have also been reports of masked police in plainclothes attacking members of the public during these protests. No action has been taken against these individuals.”

“Also of concern is the intimidating and confrontational nature of the Police who dismantle these protests. Police arbitrarily announce areas where the public cannot assemble, closing down main roads at random. Protesters have been heavily pepper sprayed, and masses of riot Police have charged at peaceful protesters on the capital city’s busiest roads,” the statement added.

The police have also banned protests near the Malé City Hall until March 15, claiming businesses in the area had been complaining over protesters allegedly disrupting business.

As the confrontation with police and protesters went on, pictures started circulating on social media depicting Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) officers carrying firearms. The MNDF immediately dismissed the pictures as false.

Confrontation at sea

Prior to the rally, approximately 200 protesters took to the sea on six vessels. The boats departed from the T-Jetty at 4pm, calling for the immediate release of Nasheed, former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and all activists arrested at recent protests.

Nazim, charged with importing and possessing illegal weapons, is in police custody until his trial concludes.

After circling Malé City, the boats headed for Dhoonidhoo Island, where several coastguard and police vessels had set up a barricade. Police speedboats circled around the protesters, creating waves that rocked the boats wildly.

In a statement afterwards, police warned it would check the boats used for the protest to ensure they met all safety standards and take legal action against any boat that had carried more passengers than its carrying capacity.

On Thursday, 14 MDP women were arrested from a protest at the airport. They were released the next day.

The MDP along with opposition Jumhooree Party staged a 10,000 strong rally in Malé on February 27, and issued 13 demands on President Abdulla Yameen, including Nasheed and Nazim’s release. The government has refused to initiate talks, claiming the demands were not beneficial to the public.

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Tourist police stationed at areas frequented by tourists in Malé

The Maldives Police Services (MPS) have stationed tourist police officers at areas frequented by the tourists in Malé.

“Numerous police officers are stationed in different areas of Malé for when the tourists disembark in Malé,” read a police statement today. “As the republic square and artificial beach are frequently visited by tourists, police presence will be more prominent in these areas.”

The police said they would take extra measures to protect tourists from a passenger liner currently docked in the Malé harbor.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon met with Chinese Ambassador Wang Fukang in order to discuss the safety and security of Chinese tourists in the Maldives.

The meeting was attended by senior officials from the Maldivian Foreign Service and the embassy of China, along with representatives from the tourism ministry, the immigration department, the police, the Maldives Customs Service, as well as relevant tourism industry groups.

In September 2014, a Chinese tourist hit by speeding motorbike on Medhuziyaarai Magu died while undergoing treatment in Sri Lanka.


Nasheed defends coalition with former rivals

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has defended the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) coalition with former opponents warning of a slide into authoritarianism without the MDP’s recent coalition with Jumhooree Party (JP).

“A lot of people would have been arrested – including myself, they would prevent the MDP parliamentary group from increasing beyond six or seven members, and media would not be allowed to cover news freely,” Nasheed told Rajje TV’s Fala Suruhee programme last night.

Claiming there was “no hope” with President Abdulla Yameen’s government, Nasheed said there were no job opportunities for the youth, and said that the country’s economy had slowed down due to decreasing tourist arrivals.

“I sincerely believe that the best course of action for the Maldives is to pave way for [JP leader] Gasim Ibrahim to become the president in 2015,” said Nasheed.

MDP and JP officially agreed to work together in defending the constitution last month, two days after JP split off from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The two parties accused the government of repeatedly breaching the constitution by narrowing basic rights and freedoms, and undermining independent institutions and the judiciary.

Nasheed has come under fire from supporters for the MDP’s decision to ally with key figures responsible for his ouster in February 2012.

In response, Nasheed said: “Many things have happened which we did not want to see. If we were to keep it in our hearts all the time, it would prevent us from going forward.”

The MDP/JP coalition would gain a parliamentary majority in March, he continued. The two opposition parties have now begun nightly protests calling for President Yameen’s immediate resignation.

Protesters last night  held up placards which read, “Stop discrimination among citizens” and “We will not tolerate dictatorship.”


Nasheed also condemned the government’s arrest of former Defense Minister colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim last month, describing the move as an attempt to frame the minister.

“President Yameen has to back down, he cannot be allowed to frame Nazim,” he said.

Nazim was arrested on February 10 fter the police special operations officers allegedly found a pistol and an improvised explosive device during a raid on Nazim’s home in the early hours of January 18. He is now accused of plotting to overthrow the government and harming senior government officials.

“Nazim would clearly know that he would not able to change the government by keeping a pistol and three bullets under his pillow,” Nasheed said pointing to Nazim’s three year term as defense minister and longs service in the army.

The former defense minister’s legal team maintains there is no forensic evidence to implicate Nazim and has appealed the Criminals Court’s decision to detain the minister for 15 days on remand at the High Court.

Nasheed also spoke out against the government’s recent decision to take back plots of land awarded to Gasim and the Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb’s claim that Gasim owed the government US$ 100 million (MVR 1.5 billion) as rent and fines for islands.

“The state should not be able to unjustly take any businessman’s assets,” said Nasheed.

Gasim has denied the claims as well, stating at a february 16 protest: “Gasim Ibrahim does not owe them any money at all. So the tourism Minister is clearly lying.”

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Former Defense Minister brought to Police for statement

Former Defense Minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim was brought  to the Maldives Police Services (MPS) headquarters to give a statement last night (February 7).

A police media official told Minivan News that Nazim was summoned in order to obtain a statement regarding the ongoing investigation into weapons found at Nazim’s home.

Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed – who has replaced former Attorney General Azima Shukoor as Nazim’s legal representative – confirmed that he and some of his family members have provided the police with statements.

“I would like to reiterate that Nazim has been assisting the police with this investigation since day one,” Hameed told Minivan News today. “In doing so, Nazim and members of his family provided DNA samples and fingerprints to the police.”

The MPS had previously revealed that it found a pistol and a makeshift explosive device at Nazim’s home during a raid under a court warrant in the early hours of January 18.

Speaking to the media on January 29, Commissioner of Police (CP) Hussein Waheed said that, after searching Nazim’s home using “forced entry”, police found a 9mm handgun, an improvised explosive device, 3 bullets, and a magazine.

Nazim’s lawyer immediately released a statement denying that the items found were there with the former minister’s knowledge.

“The items claimed to have been found at Colonel Mohamed Nazim’s residence by Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed do not belong to Colonel Nazim or his family, and if there were any items were present at the house, they were there without Colonel Nazim’s or his family’s knowledge,” read the statement.

Both Nazim and his wife’s passport have been withheld by authorities, with Commissioner Waheed explaining that police did not consider taking Nazim into custody to be the “best course of action to proceed depending on his profile”.

“However, as you can see we have prevented him from leaving abroad,” he added.

Additionally, Commissioner Waheed said that police had written to the Maldivian National Defense Force to verify ownership of the weaponry, being informed that no items were missing from the military’s inventory.

Police have maintained that the service was not aware it was Nazim’s home until after the raid, noting that they had adhered to international best practices and that Nazim was present during the search.

Waheed described the weapons as “very dangerous”, saying that, while the handgun could be lethal, the explosive device when matched with another component could cause “large scale destruction”.

Nazim – who was also acting health minister and head of immigration – was dismissed from his post on January 20, three days after the police raid.

Speaking to the media at the time, Nazim said that events had shown that no Maldivian was assured of safety and security.

“This gives an alarming signal that entering any house, at any time and to do anything is possible. The defence minister is the most senior official standing beside the president,” he told the press immediately following his dismissal.

Police have since suggested that Nazim was questioned regarding the weapons but that he had failed to adequately respond to the questions.

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Australian Commissioner notes challenges facing police in emerging democracies

Commissioner of Police for Western Australia Karl O’Callaghan delivered a lecture to police officers this morning on the challenges facing police forces in emerging democracies.

O’Callaghan – who oversees a force of more than 5,800 officers – explained that the growth of democracy meant the need for greater accountability and openness within the police force.

“As democracy emerges, the media will become more interested in what you do – the media will want to ask more questions about what you do,” he noted.

“That can be really challenging, and it’s still challenging for me after ten years as commissioner in Western Australia.”

“What we see in the Maldives is still changes of instability, so governments have changed quite a bit in the last ten years and that has an impact on your executive and your command.”

Mutinying police officers were involved in the overthrow of the Maldivian Democratic Party government in February 2012, later being found by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) to have used “excessive” and “discriminatory” force in a “brutal” crackdown against MDP supporters.

A subsequent Commonwealth-led inquiry into events called for investigation of acts of police brutality as well as recommending “immediate steps” to improve the performance of a number of state institutions, including the police and the HRCM.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil told the Majlis last August that five cases concerning police brutality on February 8 were ongoing, after the Police Intergrity Commission had recommended 45 officers be investigated.

Western Australia’s police force has been working with Maldivian authorities since 2006, assisting with the transition of the National Security Services into the Maldives Police Services and the Maldives National Defence Force.

Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed has also thanked O’Callaghan during his visit for the help of the Western Australia police, as well as giving details of his owe force’s community outreach work.

Scholarship opportunities were launched by the University of Western Sydney (UWS) last year promising Maldivian police officers three-year doctoral research courses to increase the capacity of the Maldivian police.

“In the beginning it’s hard as, under the old system there was less scrutiny, less accountability, under the new system there will be much more but you’ll get used to it cos you’ll get better at what you do,” O’Callaghan told officers today.

Resource constraints also put pressure on police forces to improve efficiency, he noted, requiring feedback from officers on the ground to improve the service. Moreover, greater performance will result in improved relations with the public and government.

“A democratic police force is impartial but is compassionate,” O’Callaghan told the hundreds of officers in attendance, stressing the importance of the words of Robert Peel – the British reformer credited with creating the modern police force: ‘Police are the people and people are the police’.

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Police arrests 18 foreigners for gambling

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has arrested 18 foreigners found gambling in Malé.

A police statement said a court warrant was obtained before the arrests were made from a house in the Maafannu ward in Malé. All of those arrested were Bangladeshi nationals.

The MPS said that large sums of money were discovered after searching the house and that the case is now being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department.


Police not only solving crimes, but developing responsible youth: Commissioner Waheed

Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed has said the Maldives Police Service is not only aiming to solve and combat crimes, but also to develop a responsible youth community in the country.

Speaking at an award ceremony for the participants of the latest ‘Blues for Youth’ camp, Waheed said that the police are conducting programmes in every island of the country in order to reduce crime while providing opportunities for youth communities.

He highlighted the importance of universal participation in the reduction of crime in the country while claiming that some individuals were trying to incite unrest and violence by holding protests on the streets.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) accused the government last week of attempting to obstruct the party’s demonstrations after launching its first protests since the 2013 presidential elections – claims denied by the police.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has based many of it policies on youth empowerment, with President Yameen noting recently that his major aim was to rebuild the country through opportunities for the youth.

To this end, he has cleared the criminal records of over 2000 young people in the country during his first year in office.

PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Ahmed Nihan recently expressed concern that young people were being labelled as gang members unfairly, although comments by the home minister and a rise in violent crime suggests a persistent problem with gangs in the capital, Malé.

“Youth in these small congregations with young blood will have the courage to defend each other. Small things like that will roll over… It’s true. I know while saying this that some incidents have gone beyond bound,” Nihan was quoted as saying by local media.

Speaking at the ‘Blues for Youth’ event, Waheed also said police would not reveal details of ongoing investigations, regardless of how much pressure was applied. Two cases are currently lodged with the Police Integrity Commission in relation to the missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

The youth camps began shortly after the government took office last year, with the stated aim of broadening the role of youth in national activities, building a healthy young generation, preparing youth for the job market and facilitating opportunities to strengthen assertiveness.

The police also held a road show at the Raalhugandu area this weekend, the starting point for an MDP march, with the aim of raising awareness about road accidents.

The show, held in collaboration with Allied Insurance, included games for children and model displays of accidents.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the road show, Waheed expressed hope that the show will raise awareness amongst the many motorist on Malé roads.

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