Chief justice and police commissioner discuss police obstruction and assault cases

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed met on Thursday and discussed measures to expedite cases involving assault of police officers and obstruction of police duty.

According to a statement by the Maldives Police Services, Saeed pledged to take the necessary steps and said law enforcement officers must receive due protection and security.

Appreciating the service of policemen, Saeed said the nation came first before the individual, and said the Supreme Court bench would not engage in any act that may cause harm to the Maldives.

Waheed said “attacking law enforcement officers is a crime in civilized countries,” and spoke about the need for expediting cases involving attacks on police officers.

Hundreds of individuals were arrested from protests on charges of obstruction of police duty and assault of police officers during the anti-government protests following the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

An individual found guilty of the offense may be fined up to MVR12,000 (US$778) and/or sentenced to six months in jail.

According to statistics published by the Prosecutor General’s Office, in 2013, 101 individuals were charged with obstruction of police duty. In 2012, 65 individuals were charged with obstruction of police duty and 59 were charged with assaulting a police officer. Figures were not available for 2014.

The police have not published statistics on the number of individuals arrested on these charges.

According to the police statement, Saeed and Waheed also discussed measures to reduce crime rates in the Maldives.

Saeed was appointed as the Chief Justice following the controversial and sudden dismissal of former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan after a People’s Majlis amendment to the Judicature Act reducing the seven-member Supreme Court bench to five judges.

Supreme Court Justices Ali Hameed and Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi and Deputy Commissioners of Police Ahmed Saudhy and Mohamed Sodiq also participated in the meeting.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor General Muhthaz Mushin has requested the police speed up investigation in cases involving arrest from unlawful protests and submit charges for prosecution within 48 hours.

Related to this story

Three opposition protesters fined for obstruction of police duty

PPM pledges harsher punishments for assaulting police, ‘obstructing police duty’

High Court rules that MPs’ police obstruction cases cannot be refiled


Two MNDF officers and a policeman arrested in Malé drug bust

The Maldives Police Services has arrested two officers of the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) and a policeman in a drug bust this morning.

Speaking to the press today, Drug Enforcement Department’s (DED) Head Superintendent Ahmed Shifan said three individuals were arrested at Avista café in Malé on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Following the arrest, the police conducted a search of Sinamalé apartment 12-03, and found 18 bullets of suspected heroin and tools to pack narcotics. A fourth man was arrested at the apartment.

The police officer arrested in the case is 28 years of age while the two MNDF officers are 24 years of age and 28 years of age.

A further two men were arrested on charges of drug trafficking in Malé this week. They were caught on the stairway of Galholu Mithuru in Malé with 27 pieces of cellophane and 23 packets thought to contain illegal drugs.

There has been a spike in the number of police officers arrested in drug busts this year.

In March, the police arrested a police sergeant in a drug bust involving 24 kg of heroin. The MVR36 million haul is the largest from a police operation in the country’s history. Four Maldivians, three Bangladeshis and 11 Pakistanis were also taken into custody.

Police later revealed that the officer had used a local money transfer service to send money to an Iranian agent.

Local media reported in August that the officer was among three Maldivian suspects released from custody after the Prosecutor General’s Office decided there was insufficient evidence for prosecution.

On November 11, a police officer and eight others were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking from Lhaviyani Atoll Hinnavaru Island.

According to the police, 16 bullet-sized rubber packets of “a substance suspected to be drugs,” 241 bullet-sized rubber packets of heroin, and 145 packets of hash oil were seized during an operation conducted by the DED in Hinnavaru.

A police officer and two others were also arrested in a drug bust in Addu City in October.

Speaking at a conference of police division and atoll commanders on October 22, Home Minister Umar Naseer said criminal gangs in the atolls were attempting to infiltrate the police by forging personal relationships with police officers stationed in their islands.

Gangs attempt to “penetrate” police stations in order to gather information to carry out criminal activities, he said.

Naseer said complaints have been received from various islands about offenders quickly learning of a crime being reported to the police.

Information was thus “leaking” from within the police, he added.

“So some people hesitate to share information with some police stations. This is very regrettable,” he said.

Commanders in the atolls should ensure that police officers do not fraternise with known criminals or suspected drug dealers, Naseer urged.

Naseer said he had received complaints from various islands about police officers spending time with suspected drug dealers when they were off-duty.

Commanders should be aware of who their subordinate officers “go to coffees or picnics with,” he advised, which should be controlled to ensure the “credibility of the police force on that island or atoll.”


“The old posters fade, but we do not forget,” says Rilwan’s family

Family members and friends of missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan have papered the walls of the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé today (November 16) with new posters to mark 100 days since the journalist disappeared.

“The old posters fade, but we do not forget,” Rilwan’s sister Fathimath Shehenaz told reporters.

Rilwan was last seen on the Hulhumalé ferry in the early hours of August 8. He is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint at 2 am outside his apartment in Hulhumalé.

The posters of newspaper Haveeru’s August 22 front page carried the question ‘Was it Rilwan who was abducted in Hulhumalé?’ Family members and friends stenciled #PoliceMvFail over the posters.

“Today is the 100th day since he disappeared. But the state, the Maldives Police Services in particular, are yet to answer if it was Rilwan who was abducted in Hulhumalé,” Shehenaz said.

Police had arrested four people over the case in October. One suspect was held in police custody for five weeks, but the Criminal Court transferred him to house arrest this morning.

In a statement today, Rilwan’s mother Aminath Easa condemned the state’s failure to investigate her son’s disappearance and said, “the Maldivian state has failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime.”

“We do not believe the government has protected individuals right to life as per Article 21 of the constitution,” the statement continued.

Detailing the state’s failings in investigating the case, the statement noted:

  • The President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen has refused to comment on the case
  • There is no apparent progress in the Maldives Police Service’s investigation
  • The state has failed to investigate threats of violence and murder against journalists and non-governmental organisations who sought to uncover the truth behind the disappearance
  • Home Minister Umar Naseer’s contradictory statements on the case appear to show the state’s disregard for the case
  • The Majlis threw out a 5000 strong signature petition calling on the parliament to hold law enforcement agencies accountable

The state is obliged to investigate Rilwan’s disappearance and find him, the statement continued, arguing a family must not be reduced to begging the state’s institutions for answers.

“We, Rilwan’s family, will continue to remind the state of its responsibilities and will continue to do all we can to find him.”

Human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network released a report in September implicating radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance.

Discounting theories of voluntary disappearance and suicide, the investigation – conducted by Glasgow-based Athena Intelligence and Security – concludes the disappearance is likely to have been an abduction.

The report confirmed evidence of possible “hostile surveillance” at the terminal conducted by two known affiliates of Malé based Kuda Henveiru gang.

Former president and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed in a tweet today said the police “are incapable of finding Rilwan because it has been taken hostage by gangs associated with ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria].”

Home Minister Umar Naseer has previously acknowledged involvement of criminal gangs in the case.

Rilwan’s family on October 29 accused the police of negligence and have filed a complaint with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).


Missing journalist’s family accuses police of negligence, files complaint

Missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan’s family has accused police of negligence in investigating the reporter’s disappearance and has filed a formal complaint with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).

Speaking at a press conference today, Rilwan’s sister Mariyam Fazna noted that 82 days had passed without apparent progress in police investigations.

“Our family is in deep mourning. We have no way forward. We believe police negligence is behind the lack of progress in finding Rilwan,” said Fazna.

The police have failed to take the case seriously, despite an abduction outside Rilwan’s apartment building on the night of his disappearance and reports that he had received numerous death threats and had been followed, she said.

Eyewitnesses had reported the abduction at knifepoint at around 2am on August 8, but police only took their statements on August 14, the family said. The police had also failed to track down and search the car used in the abduction.

“If the abduction had been investigated immediately at the right time, the police would have been able to find the victim and clarify if it is our brother or not,” Fazna said.

The police only searched Rilwan’s apartment 29 hours after the abduction was reported and searched his office 11 days afterwards. The police also failed to make a public announcement on Rilwan’s disappearance – despite a request by the family – and did not inform the public on how to act if they had any information related to the case, the family explained further.

Meanwhile, Rilwan’s sister Fathimath Shehenaz condemned the police for disrespecting a family in grief, pointing to a police statement on September 23 in which they claimed political parties were using the family to obtain information about the investigation.

“These words are extremely disrespectful to a family suffering the disappearance of a loved one,” she said.

The People’s Majlis on Tuesday threw out a 5055 signature petition urging MPs to pressure police for a through and speedy investigation. The parliament secretariat later admitted the rejection was “a mistake,” according to MP Imthiyaz Fahmy who sponsored the petition.

Four men have been arrested over Rilwan’s disappearance, but only one man remains in custody at present. The police have revealed few details on the case.

Home Minister Umar Naseer said he believed Rilwan is alive and promised to return him safe to his family. He has also acknowledged involvement of criminal gangs in the case.

Human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network released a report in September implicating radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance.

Discounting theories of voluntary disappearance and suicide, the investigation – conducted by Glasgow-based Athena Intelligence and Security – concludes the disappearance is likely to have been an abduction.

The report confirmed evidence of possible “hostile surveillance” at the terminal conducted by two known affiliates of Malé based Kuda Henveiru gang.

The NGO on October 23 accused the police of negligence in investigating the disappearance for their failure to inform the public on progress and failure to confirm if the abduction reported on the night Rilwan went missing was related to his disappearance.


“Police did not beat them enough,” says Majlis majority leader Ahmed Nihan

Ruling Progressive Party Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan has defended police brutality during a People’s Majlis debate today, accusing opposition MPs of putting up an act using tomato sauce to pretend police beat them up.

“Honorable Speaker, police did not beat them enough. Those who say they were brutalised, came to Majlis the next day in good health with makeup on. Their health is better than before. How can anyone who was brutalised get up on their two feet and speak on this Majlis floor [the next day]?” he said.

“They say they were brutalised, bloodied, and put on a drama on hospital beds, smear themselves with tomato sauce, and take photos and the next day they speak perfectly well at this Majlis and go off.”

Nihan appeared to be referring to police officers brutalizing several opposition MPs during a demonstration following the controversial ouster of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

On February 8, MPs including MPs Mariya Ahmed Didi, Reeko ‘Moosa’ Manik, Eva Abdulla and former MP Mohamed ‘Bonda’ Rasheed were severely beaten.

Nihan’s comments came during a debate on revising clauses in the 2008 Police Act that state the police must forward criminal cases to the Attorney General (AG) for prosecution.

The amendments – accepted by the Majlis today – propose placing prosecutor general (PG) instead of AG in clauses relating to prosecution, as the Constitution of 2008 states only the PG can press charges on behalf of the state.

Nihan said opposition MPs had politicised the issue by digressing from the debate and focusing on police brutality.

Death of officers

Nihan also suggested the deaths of police officers, Adam Haleem on Kaafu Atoll Kaashidhoo Island in 2012 and Misbah Abdulla in Malé in 2013 were linked to opposition’s defaming of the Maldives Police Service.

Referring to Haleem’s murder, Nihan said: “This is the result of a specific people protesting and calling for attacks on Maldivian police and soldiers during that week and weeks before that.”

Haleem was stabbed to death in July 2012 and several government officials including current Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed blamed the MDP for the death. The MDP said the government was politicising the death for political gain.

Abdulla was killed in an accident after a speeding motorcycle hit him while he was manning a vehicle checkpoint.

“In every event, in every discussion, [they say police] are brutal, arresting – were you arrested when you were prostrating [in prayer]?” Nihan said.

“Harassing police is harassing us, playing with our arteries, our blood,” he continued.

Police Brutality

On August 6, AG Mohamed Anil told parliament five February 8 brutality cases involving four police officers are ongoing at the Criminal Court.

At minister’s question time, MP Eva Abdulla asked how far investigations into police brutality – as recommended by the 2012 Commission of National Inquiry’s (CoNI) – had progressed.

“With respect to the administration of justice, in particular concerning allegations of police brutality and acts of intimidation, there is an urgent need for investigations to proceed and to be brought to public knowledge with perpetrators held to account and appropriately sanctioned,” read the second recommendation of the report.

While it concluded that the transfer of presidential power was constitutional, CoNI had found that “there were acts of police brutality on 6, 7 and 8 February 2012 that must be investigated and pursued further by the relevant authorities.”

Anil explained that the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) had investigated 45 cases of alleged police brutality and made a recommendation to the home ministry to dismiss six police officers. However, only one officer was sacked, Anil said.

February 8

Thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé on February 8, 2012, in a protest march after former President Nasheed declared his resignation the previous day had come “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinying police officers of the Special Operations (SO).

Following an investigation, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) concluded that the heavy-handed police crackdown on the MDP walk was “brutal” and “without warning.”

The HRCM recommended the PIC investigate the “disproportionate” use of force that left dozens of demonstrators injured and hospitalised.

In May 2013, the PG’s Office pressed charges against two police officers accused of assaulting MDP MPs ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Mariya Ahmed Didi during the violent crackdown.

Amnesty International meanwhile warned that failure to prosecute police officers accused of human rights abuses and “serious failings in the justice system entrenched impunity”.

In June 2013, former PIC member Hala Hameed told parliament’s government oversight committee that the cases involving the six police officers were “not disciplinary issues, but crimes,” expressing concern with the home minister’s refusal to suspend the officers.

Moreover, former PIC Chair Shahinda Ismail told Minivan News in September 2012 that a staff sergeant caught on tape kicking a fallen demonstrator “was promoted after this incident.”

In February this year, Shahinda told Minivan News that detainees arrested in Addu City on February 9 were “forced to walk on smoldering coals”.

According to the HRCM report, 32 people filed complaints concerning varying degrees of injuries sustained in the crackdown, while 20 people submitted medical documents of their treatment of injuries.

Two fingers on the left hand of one demonstrator were crushed, the report noted.

Al Jazeera filmed parts of the crackdown, reporting that “police and military charged, beating demonstrators as they ran – women, the elderly, [with] dozens left nursing their wounds”. The BBC meanwhile reported “a baton charge by police on crowds gathered outside one of the main hospitals.”

In a report in May 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul warned that there could be more instability and unrest unless serious human rights violations of Maldives’ authoritarian past are addressed.


Five injured in spate of street violence in Malé

Four men and a woman sustained serious injuries in four separate incidents of violence in Malé City on Monday and Tuesday, the Maldives Police Services have said.

The first incident took place near the Eid Mosque in Maafannu ward around 7:40pm. Muggers attacked a pedestrian from the back and demanded he hand over his mobile phone. The man was hit on the back of his head, police said.

Minutes later at 7:45pm, two men were attacked in Malé’s suburb Hulhumalé Island near Flat no. 60. One of the men was stabbed in the shoulder and the other was stabbed in his head, the police said.

At 8pm, two masked men on motorbikes stabbed a 23-year-old woman in the back in front of a known gang hangout at the junction of Kalhuhuraa Magu and Husnuheena Magu in Malé. The ADK Hospital in Malé said the woman had suffered serious injuries.

An 18-year-old was also stabbed in the back in Heinveiru ward of Malé at 8:40pm on Monday.

All five have been hospitalised.

Police said they do not know if the attacks were connected and declined to reveal further details.

According to the police no arrests have been made yet. However, police have confiscated a motorbike in connection with the attack on two men in Hulhumalé.

Police statistics reveal 95 incidents of assault reported in July alone. The number brings up the total number of assault cases to 697 this year. Approximately 1500 cases of assault are reported annually in the Maldives, of which a majority occur in Malé.

A 2009 study by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has identified a weak criminal justice system to be the root cause of high crime rates in the Maldives. The HRCM said delays in court processes, failure by law enforcement agencies to implement sentences and failure to prosecute drug traffickers also contribute to growing crime rates.

The study also highlighted social factors such as a housing crisis, lack of employment opportunities, and lack of entertainment facilities for young people as a driver of crime.

Approximately 43 percent of respondents in the HRCM survey said they did not feel safe in their Malé homes, while 63 percent said they do not feel safe walking alone on the streets of Malé during daylight hours.


Man arrested for sexually abusing underage boy

A 38-year-old man has been arrested in Malé on charges of sexually abusing an underage boy.

The Maldives Police Services arrested the man under a court warrant at 6:00 pm on Tuesday. The suspect has been detained for 15 days.

A family member of the victim reported the incident to the police.

Reports of sexual abuse of underage boys have been increasing in the Maldives.

On June 10, the Criminal court sentenced a 38-year-old man to 14 years in jail for molesting a 16-year-old boy. In January, the Ungoofaru Magistrate Court sentenced a 51-year-old man to 10 years in jail for abusing a 14-year-old boy on multiple occasions.


Last of the Pakistani suspects in the 24 kg heroin bust deported

The Maldives Police Services have deported two Pakistanis detained in connection to a 24 kg heroin drug bust citing insufficient evidence.

The two were the last of the eleven Pakistani nationals arrested from an Iranian boat in what the police claim to be the largest drug haul from a police operation in the country’s history.

Four Maldivians and three Bangladeshis were also arrested, but only five of the eighteen remain in custody. Six of the nine Iranians were released on the orders of the Criminal Court.

Of the three Bangladeshi nationals who were arrested from the boat, two were released by the Criminal Court on June 24. Only one remains under police custody.

All four Maldivians, including a police officer, remain in custody. Two have been transferred to house arrest, one due to ill health. The police have said the suspect had earlier suffered burns to 45 percent of his body in a fire accident. Two of the Maldivians arrested have previous records drugs related crimes, police has said.

The police have declined to reveal details of the suspects.

The street value of the drugs is estimated to be worth MVR 100 million (USD 6.5 million).

The operation

The police in March described the 24 kg heroin seize as one of the toughest operations in its history.

A sixteen member police team was involved in monitoring the movements of a local boat called “Violet” between March 4 and 10. The boat met Iran’s Hormuz at a rendezvous point 30 nautical miles outside the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on March 10. Hormuz had set sail from Iran’s Chahbahar seaport.

A small dinghy was offloaded from Hormuz onto Violet. When Violet reached Hulhumalé, the two local smugglers boarded the dinghy and were arrested from the island’s lagoon that night. The remaining arrests were made the next day on March 11.

The four locals arrested include the two primary smugglers, captain of Violet, and a police officer who used a local money transfer service to send money to an Iranian agent

Hormuz was caught seven nautical miles outside the Maldives’ EEZ.

In a very detailed account of the operation, police said they listened to phone conversations between the two suspected local smugglers and their Iranian counterpart and followed them police for several days.

A 46 member team comprising of the intelligence and drug enforcement department were involved in the operation, police have said.