RSF “deplore attitude of police” in Raajje TV attack

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned an arson attack that destroyed the headquarters of private broadcaster Raajje TV and has criticized the Maldives Police Services’ failure to defend the station despite repeated requests for police protection.

“This criminal act is a direct blow to freedom of information and we deplore the attitude of the police, who failed to do what was necessary to prevent the attack although the head of TV station requested protection a few hours before it took place,” RSF said in a statement on Monday.

CCTV footage of the attack shows six masked men armed with machetes and iron bars breaking into and entering the station’s headquarters and dousing its offices in gasoline before setting it alight.

Speaking to the press on Monday, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz said the police had been unable to station officers at Raajje TV as many were being utilised at the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) protests following a Supreme Court order to suspend presidential elections.

“Our human resources are too limited to have police stationed there. So we get the police to check the area when they are out on patrol,” he said. Nawaz also said the owners of Raajje TV were negligent in protecting their property given that they had heard of an impending attack.

“What I am saying is we are utilizing a lot of police officers in the current situation in Malé [the protests], this is not to say that we are not overseeing security on the streets of Malé. We would not do that. What I am saying is when something like this happens, Maldives Police Services gives the best service we can to everyone,” Nawaz said.

The police have received CCTV footage of the attack, but have not made any arrests yet. Nawaz appealed to the public to forward any information

“It is not just those people who carried out the act who are responsible and involved in this. We believe others are involved in this,” Nawaz added.

RSF have called on the police to launch an investigation immediately and urged the government to provide Raajje TV with proper equipment to help the station resume broadcast.

Broadcasting resumed

CCTV footage shows six masked men breaking the lock on a reinforced steel grill and the main wooden door, before dousing the station’s control room with gasoline and setting it alight. Further footage shows a fireball blowing the door of the station off its hinges as a massive explosion engulfed the control room.

The building’s security guard was held hostage during the attack and was later stabbed. He is currently receiving treatment for two stab wounds to his back. A woman who was trapped on the terrace of the building was rescued by the Maldivian National Defense Forces (MNDF).

“The police must immediately launch an investigation so that those who started this fire are arrested and brought to justice. We also call on the Maldivian authorities and the international community to help Raajje TV to resume providing news and information as soon as possible,” the RSF has said.

Reporters Without Borders added: “The national authorities have a duty to provide Raajje TV with proper equipment so that it can function in the same way as it did before the fire.”

Despite the fire destroying all of the station’s equipment, it started broadcasting a few hours after the attack – 12:40pm on Monday – with donated equipment.

The attack is the second raid on the station’s building by masked assailants. In the first attack, in August 2012, the attackers sabotaged equipment in the station and cut critical cabling.

Several Raajje TV journalists have also reported arbitrary arrests and assaults. In February 2013, men wielding iron rods on motorbikes assaulted Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed leaving him with near near-fatal head injuries.

According to Raajje TV the station had an audience of at least 95,000 people, one of the largest shares of Maldivian media.


Maldives Media Council submitting case against President’s Office “to create a free media”

The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has voted to submit a case against the President’s Office to “create a free media” in light of the discriminatory treatment of Raajje TV.

The President’s Office is violating equal rights by not inviting the opposition-aligned TV station Raajje TV to events and has not been adhering to the MMC’s requests that it give equal opportunities to all media, the MMC Secretariat told Minivan News (April 9).

The case will be submitted to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office April 10.

“MMC members have voted to submit the case. Members have a strong feeling that it is a necessary step to take in order to create a free media in the Maldives,” said the MMC Secretariat.

The MMC has been very active the past two months trying to solve these problems and is now sending the case to the PG, Raajje TV Deputy Chief Executive Officer Abdulla Yamin told Minivan News.

The President’s Office has not been inviting Raajje TV to press conferences, has denied reporters entry press events in the President’s Office, and has not sent the channel any government press statements, Yamin claimed.

The President’s Office also asked government ministries and state-owned companies not to give information to Raajje TV and for these companies to stop providing private sponsorship to the media outlet.

Yamin said that they had observed this treatment was particular only to their channel.

“The President’s Office said they have not invited us because it is their privilege to decide whether to invite Raajje TV or not,” said Yamin.

“We are talking about rights granted in the constitution, not a privilege. There must be a situation [in the Maldives] where independent media can run.

“Article 28 of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of the press and article 29 assures the right to freedom of information,” Yamin declared.

Yamin explained that the MCC had acted as a mediator to try and resolve the lack of cooperation shown by the President’s Office to Raajje TV.

“The President’s Office said if we do certain things they will cooperate. However, then the President’s Office is forcing their influence on our editorial policy,” said Yamin.

“We are not going to negotiate our constitutionally guaranteed right to information,” he added.

Ongoing government discrimination

Raajje TV filed a case against the President’s Office in the Civil Court in September 2012, complaining that the station had been boycotted from official events. Yamin expects the civil court to issue their verdict later this week.

Raajje TV also submitted a case to the parliamentary committee on government accountability regarding the president’s office discriminating against the media outlet. Parliament invited the president’s office to attend the committee twice, but never received a response, according to Yamin.

Additionally, Raajje TV lodged a complaint against the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) with the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), alleging it was “using its power to give benefits” to other TV channels by providing them funding.

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) was contacted by the ACC regarding the matter, but did not respond, according to Yamin.

“The MBC have not done anything regarding our right to information. They should be working on these issues to make sure rights are assured,” said Yamin.

Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed previously named Raajje TV as an “enemy of state” in a press conference held in July, the same day on which the Maldives Police Services publicly stated its refusal to provide cooperation or protection to the channel.

Raajje TV also filed a case against the Maldives Police Services in September 2012 over their decision to deny cooperation or protection to the channel. In February 2013, the Civil Court ruled that the decision by the Maldives Police Service to cease cooperating with Raajje TV was unconstitutional.

Dismissing the police argument that it had the sole discretion to decide who to invite to press conferences and functions, the court stated that the action more resembled a deliberate attempt to limit the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of media and the right to information.

Raajje TV believes this verdict will apply to the President’s Office as well.

“If the court is fair and balanced a similar verdict will come. I believe the court won’t be that corrupt because the constitution and laws are clear. It’s written in black and white,” Yamin said.

Raajje TV is one of the five private broadcasters in the country and is the only television station aligned with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The TV station has come under substantial pressure and criticism from groups including the government and political parties aligned with it.

RaajjeTV has been the subject of continuous verbal attacks by the state following the transfer of power in February.

In early August 2012, Raajje TV’s control room was sabotaged by intruders.

Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders at the time condemned this attack, stating “This targeted and well-prepared operation was the foreseeable culmination of the new government’s escalating verbal attacks on Raajje TV. How the authorities respond will be seen as a test of their commitment to media pluralism.”

The President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission were not responding to calls at time of press.


No official response from PIC over bystander’s death, authorities “elusive and slow”, says widow

Leaked CCTV footage which has thrown into dispute an official police account of 43 year-old Abdulla Gasim Ibrahim’s death in a motorcycle accident on August 17 has been making rapid rounds on social media.

The family of the victim in September raised the matter with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), stating: “the ‘accident’ occurred due to a policeman standing in front of Hilaaleege using his baton to hit the head of the driver on a motorcycle which had two people fleeing after stealing, which caused the motorcycle to lose control and drive into Abdulla Gasim Ibrahim’s motorcycle.”

Ibrahim’s widow Naseema Khaleel told Minivan News on Monday that she had received no official response from the PIC to her letter.

“I call the PIC now and then and ask about it. They first said they’ve asked the police for the relevant footage, then later said they had received it. The standard answer since then has been that they are looking into the matter,” Khaleel said.

“The police call every now and then. They called a few days back to ask for the motorcycle registration and bills. They too say they are investigating the case. I do want to take the matter to court. Right now I’m waiting to see if we get a response from PIC,” Khaleel explained. “What else can we do?”

Khaleel stays home taking care of the couple’s two children, and said she has faced much hardship following her husband’s death.

“No state bodies or anyone else have extended any sort of support. My brothers and family help as much as they can. The younger child is seven and I, too, wish to provide for my children, for their education and school activities. But it is hard now,” she said.

Khaleel said she had approached the police after the incident, asking for assistance in taking her husband abroad for emergency medical care, but to no avail.

“I did approach the police to ask for help, but did not get any assistance from them. We had bury him in Sri Lanka in the end. I was not even given the police records, which further complicated things there. Had I gotten at least cooperation from the police, things would not have been as difficult as they were,” she said.

Khaleel said that although the Aasandha health insurance scheme helped with the medical costs, the graveness of the situation called for her and other close family members to travel with Ibrahim. She said the family had not received any assistance even in this instance.

“I am not trying to blame the police or any other persons involved. But even the police have said that Gasim had no fault in this, that he was just an innocent bystander. Then someone needs to take responsibility,” Khaleel said.

“I don’t know what else we can do. They are elusive and very slow, which is why we keep calling back. All I want is justice,” Khaleel told Minivan News.

Investigation almost concluded: PIC

PIC Director General Fathimath Sarira confirmed the PIC had received the letter, and that the investigation was now nearing the point of conclusion.

She also confirmed that the PIC had previously received the leaked footage and that it was part of the ongoing investigation.

Article 41(c) of the Police Act states that Maldives Police Service should inform the PIC upon the occurrence of death or infliction of grave bodily injury to a person due to the use of force by a police officer.

Asked if police had in accordance with the above article notified PIC of the incident, Sarira replied, “Police has notified the commission about the accident over a phone call. Although, when we first heard of the case, it was only said that a speeding motorcycle had collided with a parked one and led to a death. But then later, we got the footage too.”

Asked for clarification on what actions the commission would take if police were found to have failed to notify the commission as required, Sarira responded that police usually did keep the PIC informed and that she could not recall any recent incidents to refer back to.

“We will be concluding this investigation very soon and can then provide more details,” she said.

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Ahmed Tholal stated that they had only become aware of the incident after the leaked video went viral on social media.

“We have today started discussions on the matter in the commission meeting. Only after the commission members conclude discussions can we provide details on how we will proceed to act on this matter,” he said.

“Police Commissioner Riyaz must take responsibility”

Former President Mohamed Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have meanwhile released statements condemning the cover-up of the incident, and calling for Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz to take responsibility for the incident.

“I am shocked and appalled by the leaked video, which appears to show a policeman hitting a motorcyclist in the head with a baton, which led to the death of an innocent bystander,” said Nasheed.

“Under [President Mohamed] Waheed’s administration, we are seeing a return to the thuggish brutality of Maldives’ authoritarian past. I implore the international community to pressure the Waheed government to immediately and impartially investigate this case, to bring human rights abusers in the security forces to book, to cease its harassment of opposition members, and hold early elections so democracy can be restored.”

Warning: some viewers may find the following footage disturbing.


PIC report calls for action against rogue police, holds former Commissioner Faseeh accountable

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has published a summary of one of its three reports concerning the February 2012 events on their website.

Of the three separate reports the PIC has said it will release, the one published today (in Dhivehi) covers the events the investigation carried out to see if the police had committed any unlawful acts during the events of February 6 and 7, which led to the controversial transfer of power in the Maldives.

The report highlights nine different incidents. In five of these, the report states that the commission will further investigate the role of the police and take necessary legal action.

It explains that the investigation was carried out with reference to videos downloaded from the internet, CCTV footage, interviews and phone logs. It emphasises that all conclusions were reached in the light of information uncovered from the above-mentioned means and the existing legislative framework.

According to the report, all conclusions were reached with the unanimous agreement of all five members of the commission.

Regarding the matter of police withdrawing from and returning to the Artificial Beach on February 6, the report states that the order to retreat was given by then President Mohamed Nasheed. It goes on to say that in refusing to obey this command, the police in the area had been acting in accordance with provisions in the constitution and the police act, while concluding that then Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh, Deputy Commissioner of Police Ismail Atheef, Chief Superintendent of Police Farhad Fikry, Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed, Superintendent Ibrahim Adnan Anees and Superintendent Ahmed AbduRahman had acted against these laws, namely Article 244(a) of the constitution, Article 6 (8) of the Police Act and the official police oath.

The report states that the commission believes that police occupying Republican Square had made valid and justifiable demands. It details these demands to have been for the Commissioner of Police to meet them, agree to not give them any more unlawful commands, and to provide a guarantee that no action would be taken against the officers for the events of that night.

While highlighting that police themselves have a constitutional right to go on strike, the report notes that it was wrong for them to have remained in the Republican Square after civilians joined the area and the gathering turned into a politically-motivated one. The report notes that it was some among these citizens who called for the resignation of then President Mohamed Nasheed.

With reference to the damage caused by officers to the police headquarters, the report says: “With reference to the videos and accounts reviewed by the commission, we have found that some among the police officers gathered in the Republican Square on February 7  entered the [police HQ] Shaheed Hussain Adam Building, damaged property, broken the panes of a window, took down the police flag, threatened senior officers and committed violent acts against them. These are disciplinary and criminal offences which should not have been seen from police officers.”

It furthermore states that these will be treated as separate offenses and legal action would be taken against those involved.

In contrast to the general account of events, the PIC in its report states that supporters of MDP and other civilians had marched into the area where the police were chanting their mission statement. The report claims that this led to clashes in which persons from both sides sustained injuries. It notes that the MDP were allowed to approach the police because MNDF officials who were tasked with cordoning off the area had retreated.

The PIC further claimed that its investigations had uncovered that police had entered the MDP ‘Haruge’ only with the intention to catch some individuals who had attacked the police at the Artificial Beach, and then run to the Haruge to hide. It also noted that people and property in the Haruge were attacked by both police and “some other persons”, stating that the commission would further investigate the role of the police in the incident, and take any required legal action.

On the issue of the takeover of the state TV channel, MNBC One, by police, military and opposition demonstrators, the report observed that the police went to the channel’s offices under the orders of an unnamed senior level commander. It states that they went to “provide protection to the channel” since it had received information that some civilians had entered and were vandalising state property within its premises.

The report states that police had been able to enter the MNBC premises after two attempts because a group of civilians were attacking them with sticks and stones outside the building. It describes the police entry into MNBC:

“Tear gas was used as police were unable to enter the MNBC premises due to attacks from civilians outside. The gate was locked, so police fired teargas with a riot gun into the premises through an opening in the gate. The police are authorised to use this weapon. Tear gas was fired inside in case there were people inside who might again attack the police. The gate was opened merely by thoroughly shaking and pushing it.”

The report notes that although the police used a “strict attitude” which “checking” the station, they did not commit violent acts against the people there. It also says that the police did not in any way attempt to influence the channel’s broadcasting. It states that the police checked the premises to see if any outsiders were there, and then retreated from the building. The PIC defends police’s actions in this matter by stating they were in accordance with Article 2 and 4 of the Police Act.

As a final point of investigation, the report notes that some police officers were injured in clashes between the officers of MPS and the MNDF. It holds then Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh accountable, quoting negligence, and states that the commission will take legal action against him.

The only recommendations in the report are directed for action from the Minister of Home Affairs. The recommendations are that the police institute remain free from political influences, and for the establishment of a working environment where the police could work without bias and with equability and fairness.

“A noble request can be made in an unlawful environment”

President of the Police Integrity Commission, Shahindha Ismail, speaking to Minivan News today expressed concern that some local media were misinterpreting the PIC report.

“The PIC does not collectively call the actions of the police on the 6th and 7th of February constitutional.”

“A very noble request or demand can still be made in an unlawful environment. This is what we are saying. The demand by the police to not give them unlawful commands was within the boundaries of law. But that they had remained there, with civilians, as part of what had escalated into a politically motivated gathering is wrong.”

Shahindha further said that the fact that many of the incidents highlighted in the report called for more investigation and action against police, confirming that the PIC did not endorse police action of the days in question as lawful.

PIC has previously said that it meant to release the reports before the CNI report. Shahindha said that the delay had been due to complications during the in-depth investigation.

President Nasheed’s nominee to CNI, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, when sharing his reservations with the press, had expressed disappointment that the CNI had not received the PIC report during the inquiry phase.


Nine people to face charges over ‘honeytrap’ nude photo blackmailing scam

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) have sent a case involving nine people to the Prosecutor General (PG), alleging the group was involved in blackmailing people after acquiring nude pictures and videos of them through Facebook.

Last year in February, police arrested 14 persons including a minor for alleged involvement in the blackmailing ring, after the group used a fraudulent Facebook account to acquire videos of politicians, businessman and other members of the public and used the material to blackmail them for money.

In a press briefing held yesterday, police revealed to media the details of the nine persons facing charges, all of them from Hithadhoo in Addu City: Mohamed Mumin (26), Hussain Shah (24), Ahmed Mohamed (26), Mohamed Minsar (24), Azmeen Ishaag (23), Mohamed Ishaag (27), Ibrahim Ishaag (20), Ali Ishaag (26) and Ahmed Athif (21).

Police stated that during the investigation process they retrieved videos of about 60 to 70 people who were blackmailed.

They also said that they have sent cases involving 10 persons to the PG, concerning the content of videos obtained. Police did not reveal the details of those charged.

Speaking at the press briefing, Superintendent of Police Mohamed Riyaz said that police did not reveal the details because the case concerned a lot of people and there remained “certain things” that still needed to be checked before revealing their identities.

Police earlier told Minivan News that they would be revealing the details of those in the videos as the investigation progressed.

Superintendent Riyaz stated that the blackmailers used two Facebook accounts to blackmail the victims and had acquired large sums of money in the process, transferred it using a shop in Male to a shop in Addu City.

Two Facebook profiles identified at the time as being involved in the ring where those belonging to ‘Lyshiaa Limanom’ and ‘Angelic Sharrown’. Both of these profiles show the same picture of a young blonde woman wearing sunglasses, and each profile had between 1200-1300 Facebook ‘friends’ – most of them Maldivian.

Riyaz also said that the blackmailers had also collected money by personally contacting the victims.

“[Before taking money] they first checked the financial capacity of the person. They took large sums of money from some people while collected money from others on a monthly basis for a very long period,” he said.

Riyaz did not reveal the details of exactly how much money that was laundered.

During the investigation, police questioned several officials from the former government including officials of state minister level.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported that the investigation was halted following pressure from the former government, and the investigations resumed following the controversial transfer of power which toppled the government of then President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7, 2012.

Following the arrests made on February last year, police in a statement said they had begun investigations after the issue came to light two months back.

“Police conducted a special operation from February 13-20, 2011 in an effort to stop this crime and present the criminals before the court,” read the statement.

Police at the time said 10 of the 14 alleged perpetrators were arrested in Addu City while four of them, including a 17 year old minor, were caught in Male’. According to police all persons arrested in Addu City were between the ages of 21-26.

Police stated that they discovered “hundreds of nude pictures and videos of Maldivians” in the laptops and external hard drives of those arrested.

“While some of the pictures were taken of people while drunk, other pictures were taken without the consent of the person,” police said.

Police also stated that they had noticed that some people in the videos were performing explicit acts in the presence of minors, and warned that this “could affect the future and discipline of the minors”.

Police questioning Haveeru journalists

During the investigations, police questioned two journalists from local newspaper Haveeru following an article they published on the blackmailing ring.

Haveeru in the article interviewed a person who claimed to have seen some of the material, who said that MPs belonging to both the opposition and the ruling party had fallen for the scam, as well as prominent businessmen and “national figures”.

Haveeru journalists Ahmed Hamdhoon and Ismail Naseer volunteered to take part in police questioning about an article published by Haveeru on February 22 concerning the content of images acquired through Facebook. The paper maintained that it did not have any of the files that were in question.

Haveeru Editor Moosa Latheef told Minivan News at the time that although police had acted politely and without aggression in requesting the identity of the sources said to have viewed the indecent images – a request he said was denied just as politely – the case could have serious ramifications for the national media in the future.

Latheef stressed particular concern that should police repeat their conduct of looking to question journalists about their sources or stories.

“We are very much enjoying the press freedom in the Maldives right now. But I’m afraid that if the police or other institutions try to interfere with our [press] freedom then they will create an atmosphere where we are unable to fulfill our responsibilities,” he said. “If this repeats then we could have journalists who are afraid to write about issues. No one wants to go to the courts to defend himself or herself [over stories].”

Latheef said that in general, it could become very easy to begin such a case by accusing a journalist – or anyone – of having illegal content such as pornographic images on their computer. Yet on a wider level, the editor was wary about police being able to gain access to the computer files of the country’s journalists and their contents that could include confidential sources vital to break stories.

While the paper’s editor accepted that there were situations such as national security issues that could warrant a court to request the identity of a journalist’s source against commonly held industry ethics, he claimed such requests should remain very rare cases.

Latheef said that the Facebook bribery allegations were a story not about an issue of national security, but one concerning prominent members of the government, parliament and the judiciary, which paled in consequence to some of the stories he said Haveeru has previously published.

Police at the time also obtained a court order to search the computers of some Haveeru staff.

However, police officials later said they ultimately opted not to conduct a search on Haveeru’s premises, but that the questioning of the journalists involved was important to an ongoing investigation.

“Attack on free media”

Following the questioning, Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) condemned the police actions describing the actions as a step to suppress free media in the country.

MJA President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said at the time that the action taken by police in questioning Haveeru’s Ahmed Hamdhoon and Ismail Naseer was unprecedented under the current constitution.

A media officer for the Maldives Police Service following the events said at the time that they were unable to confirm what sort of questions the journalists were asked and if they may be called in for further questioning at a later date.

However, Zahir at the MJA questioned why the police needed to summon the journalists about a story and images already thought to be in the public domain.

“I don’t think this was simply a case of police asking journalists to help them with an enquiry,” he said. “I personally believe it is an attempt to censor and suppress the Maldives media, which has been free.”

The case became a subject of intense political debate and conspiracy against the former government of President Mohamed Nasheed where then opposition figures accused his government of trying to cover up the blunders of his party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists who were unfit for top government posts.

Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), an opposition party at the time sent a letter to the President’s Office, calling the President Nasheed to remove government officials involved in the case from their posts “or if you do not remove them from their posts it will be taken as meaning that you are supporting such activities.”

The DQP called on the government to take action against those involved “as soon as possible.”

However, former Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair brushed off the allegations stating that none of the events reportedly depict “would have taken place inside the President’s office.”

“We don’t have Facebook, MSN or any other social networks on any computer of the President’s Office,” Zuhair said. “It is nothing to do with the government or the president,” he responded.

Several blogs at the time speculated on the names of those caught up in the scandal, but police did not confirm the identities of those compromised.


PIC runs breathalyser tests following allegations of drunken police: results negative

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has revealed that a team from the commission recently visited the Maldives Police Service (MPS) headquarters to run breathalyser tests on some police officers involved in controlling the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests.

The MDP has been protesting in the streets of Malé for a fifth consecutive day, vowing to continue demonstrating until President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration is overthrown.

The party has alleged that the controversial transfer of power that took place on February 7 was an unlawful toppling of its government and described it as a coup d’état.

The PIC in a statement said that the commission visited the police headquarters following a report alleging that the police were acting in a “drunken” state while controlling the MDP Protests.

“Breathalyser tests are carried out to identify whether a person is in a state of intoxication or not. The report that we received regarding the allegations did not specify a number [of policemen who had consumed alcohol]. We want to release the details of this along with the test results,” said PIC President Shahinda Ismail.

Local media also quoted police media official confirming the PIC visit to police headquarters, but refused to reveal any further details.

“[PIC] are currently doing the tests. The tests are being carried out on 35 officers currently involved in operational level,” he said at the time.

Following the PIC’s breathalyser tests, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz in a statement to local newspaper Haveeru called on the commission to release the details of the tests as soon as possible.

He also told the newspaper that he believed that the commission should have released the results last night following the tests claiming that it was something the commission is “supposed to do”.

Regarding Commissioner Riyaz’s comments, PIC president Shahinda stated in the newspaper that the results would be released after a meeting with the commission members.

“We will reveal the results most likely in a press statement. We haven’t still been able to hold a meeting of the commission,” she said.

The PIC this morning released the results of the tests, refuting the allegations the police were in an intoxicated state during the protests.

The Commission said it had conducted breath analysis tests on all Specialist Operation (SO) police officers, none of whom tested positive for intoxication or alcohol consumption.

Speaking to Minivan News, PIC President Shahinda said the commission carried out the tests following a report saying that the police was “acting drunkenly during the protests” and that there was “the smell of alcohol coming from them”.

“We ran tests on the SO police officers. I think it there were about 37 or 38,” she said.

She also stated that none of the officers tested positive and that the allegations were false.

Asked if there were reports of alleged misconduct of police during the dismantling of MDP protests, she said that the commission had been receiving complaints and would be looking into it as per its daily routine.

She further stated that the commission was currently preparing a press statement asking the general public to provide any information on police misconduct following the events that unfolded on February 6, 7 and 8.

She also added that investigations are ongoing into allegations of police misconduct in Addu City on February 9.

PIC proves we are innocent: Police Media official

Speaking to Minivan News, Police Media Official Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that the MPS welcomed the PIC statement, stating that it had proved their innocence.

He also said that some of the protesters were spreading false information and baseless allegations about the institution, and that the police were saddened to see such actions.

“We have noticed that some of the participants in the protests are spreading false information and making baseless allegations about the Maldives Police Service. We are very saddened to see such actions and we do condemn such actions,” Haneef said.

“It is a good thing that they filed the case with the PIC. That is the way  things actually should be,” he said, regarding the report.

Haneef also denied allegations that the police were targeting opposition aligned media outlets, stating that the police treated all media “equally and fairly”

“There is a cordon when police are trying to control protests. We always ask [media] to stay behind it and we will assure their safety and security. But when they go out of the cordon how can we identify them from the protesters when there are violence going on?” he questioned.

Asked about the issue of lack of coverage of the events if journalists stayed behind the cordon, he stated that the media should look into “alternative” ways of reporting.

“The media should seek alternative ways of covering the protests. We cannot guarantee their security when they are outside the police cordon.  Maybe they could get cameras with powerful zoom capacity to cover the protests from a distance,” he suggested.

Haneef stated that the police always approached the media in a “very friendly” manner and stated that no police officer would deliberately hurt a journalist.

Minivan News also tried contacting Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz but he had not respond at time of press.


MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi summoned for questioning over allegations of inciting violence against police

Former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi is to be summoned to the police for questioning today regarding confrontations that took place after police entered the MDP protest camp at Usfasgandu on May 29.

Police said Didi was supposed to attend police headquarters on Thursday, however said the time had been changed to 2:30pm today upon Didi’s request.

Initially the police did not reveal the reasons for summoning Didi to police, and the chit sent to Didi read that it was “regarding a matter that the police are investigating.”

Rumours were circulating within the party last night that Didi was being summoned for allegedly for plotting to attack police officers. Didi – the country’s first female lawyer – yesterday also published a report outlining the criminal charges she said President Mohamed Waheed Hassan should face following the events of February 7.

Police later issued a statement denying these claims and stated that Didi was being summoned regarding the confrontations that took place when police entered the ‘Usfasgandu’ camp on May 29.

“The Maldives Police Service has sent a summoning chit to Mariya to investigate the violent confrontations that took place between the police and opposition protesters on May 29, 2012 and May 30, 2012. We suspect that Mariya and some others were behind the attacks, and had hired gangs to attack police officers and police property, and that Mariya had encouraged attacks on police,” read the statement.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.

“Systematically threatening political opponents”- MDP

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News that Didi was to be summoned for allegedly plotting an attack on police officers.

Fahmy alleged police were reverting to an old practice under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s time of “systematically threatening political opponents”, in retaliation for Didi’s release of the report outlining a legal case for criminal charges against President Waheed.

“They are trying to harass and threaten Mariya after the report she released which exposed Waheed’s participation in the coup,” he said.

“The government is now trying to systematically threaten political opponents. Mariya’s report was academic and professional context – it was not even political,” Fahmy contended.

Didi, who is an LLM graduate from the Aberystwyth University and the country’s first female lawyer, this week  released a report claiming President Mohamed Waheed should face criminal charges for violating Article 30 of the Penal Code, for his alleged participation in unlawfully toppling the government of the Maldives.

She argued in her report that President Waheed played a “pivotal” role in the “unlawful overthrow” of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration on February 7.

Spokesperson of the President’s Office, Abbas Adil Riza at the time told Minivan News that the government welcomed such a “professional” report.

“It is very good that people like Mariya have decided to abandon their ‘street justice’ and get into the boundaries of the country’s legal system,” he said.

“This may not mean that they have entered into the legal boundary but it is a positive thing. I think it is a step taken towards getting inside the law,” he added.

Riza stated that the report was Didi’s own opinion, however he said the government would respect any decision made by the courts.

MDP released a statement condemning the “continued intimidation and harassment by the Maldives Police Services against those who are openly discussing the coup d’etat, orchestrated by factions of the police and military that forced Maldives first democratically elected President to resign on 7 February 2012.”

The party stated that the summoning came only a day after Didi released a report the drew on government’s own “timeline of events” published by the former Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

Didi’s summons followed the arrest of the Chief of Police Intelligence, Mohamed Hameed, who cooperated with the MDP’s Ameen-Aslam report into the circumstances surrounding the change of power. Several other officers were also subject to investigation. The MDP said the arrests implied “a clear and dangerous pattern of intimidation and harassment of peaceful, non-violent dissent by the sitting government and its security forces.”

Arrest of former police intelligence chief

Police last week arrested former head of police intelligence, Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed, following his contribution to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s report into the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

Reports surfaced yesterday that police officers who had cooperated with the report were being rounded up and detained, and their houses searched. A group of protesters had gathered outside police headquarters this morning.

Police initially denied the allegations of a “witch hunt” and issued a statement accusing the media of “circulating baseless and false reports”. However court warrants for the arrest of Hameed and Staff Sergeant Ahmed Naseer were subsequently leaked.

Hameed was taken into custody this morning and transferred to the detention centre on Dhoonidhoo, ahead of a court hearing this afternoon. Naseer and a third, lower-ranking officer are also believed to be in Dhoonidhoo. Later Criminal Court extended Hameed’s detention to five days.

However, Criminal Court yesterday ordered the release of former head of police intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed from custody, just a few hours after the High Court upheld its decision to keep him detained.

The five-day detention warrant granted by the Criminal Court expired on Tuesday at 2:00pm, and Hameed was brought before the court by the police with a request for further extension.

In contrast to its first decision, the court sanctioned Hameed’s release by concluding that it “does not believe the detention should be extended any further.”

Police raid on Usfasgandu

Police raided the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest camp at Usfasgandu on May 29, after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court and cordoning off the area from MDP demonstrators.

Didi was inside the cordon showing the warrant to a group of media representatives shortly after 8:00am, as dozens of police began to gather in the area.

Reasons for the search stated on the warrant included: “suspected criminal activity”, “damage to public property”, and “suspected black magic performed in the area”.

Under evidence, the warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise of May 9, and on May 25 “MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers.”

Civil Court later that night issued an order to halt the dismantling of the camp after MNDF and police officers began dismantling the camp.

The government later appealed to Civil Court decision to the High Court, but the court ruled in favor of the order.


Police release slideshow of Usfasgandu black magic evidence

Police have released a PowerPoint slideshow containing images of alleged black magic paraphernalia collected from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest camp at ‘Usfasgandu’, after they raided the area last Tuesday.

The evidence collected included 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’.

In a press conference on Saturday, Deputy Head of the Special Crime and Command Department, Superintendent Mohamed Riyaz, said that it was clearly mentioned in the Maldives Police Service Act that it was the duty of police to stop people committing unlawful acts in public.

Riyaz said police had sought a court warrant to search the premises for the sake of public opinion, although they had not needed one, and had found evidence suggesting that criminal activities were taking place.

However, he said that police delayed the process of dismantling the camp after the Civil Court ordered it halted.

He contended that Usfasgandu had become a “lawless” area, and said police had evidence it was being used for the practice of sorcery and black magic.

The evidence collected included 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’.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor described the police statement as an act of repression to control the MDP protesters.

“This is just repression. They are trying their best to hide their impunity by blaming the protesters who have come out against the coup,” Ghafoor said.

Ghafoor alleged that police were  inventing reasons to take over Usfasgandu and limit the right of freedom of assembly.

Ghafoor said he had heard similar “vague” language used by pro-government coalition partners during the the all party talks.

”I have come to understand this language the police and even the coup leaders are using during the all party talks. They are desperate. They are desperate to the extent that they feel that their impunity needs to be legitimised,” he said.

The use of “defiance, repression and threat” to control a population was not possible, Ghafoor said.

“The coup regime is desperate. Showing this evidence is just a tool of repression. They were desperate to such an extent that they sent an under cover police officer to Usfasgandu to throw a at a police van,” he alleged.

Police raided the protest camp at on Tuesday morning, after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court and cordoning off the area from MDP demonstrators.

Reasons for the search as mentioned on the warrant issued by the criminal court included: “suspected criminal activity”, “damage to public property”, and “suspected black magic performed in the area”.

Under evidence, the warrant alleged that people in the ‘Usfasgandu’ area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise of May 9, and on May 25, “MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers.”

Shortly after the raid, the Civil Court ordered a temporary court injunction after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation.

The government appealed the Civil Court decision in the High Court, which issued an injunction suspending the Civil Court’s injunction.

Police issued a statement right after the High Court injunction stating that there were no more legal obstructions to raiding the camp, but said the police were “thinking on the matter”.

Meanwhile, early on Sunday morning police arrested a MDP activist on charges of practicing black magic.

Activist Jennifer Aishath was arrested on Saturday midnight at around 1:45am near the ‘Aa Saharaa’ cemetery while she was attending a funeral. She was released at around 2:45am in the morning.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that police had followed Aishath “because she was up to something”, but did not disclose what this was.

However following her release Aishath produced a police docket stating that the reason for her summoning was for questioning over allegations she was using “black magic and sorcery”.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy alleged the government was now using charges of black magic and sorcery as an “excuse” to go on a “literal witch hunt” for MDP activists.

A piece of paper containing alleged sorcery

Empty beer can allegedly found in the area

Photos of police officers found in one of the containers

A box of condoms hidden in the ceiling of one of the containers

Paper tied to a tree

Incense sticks found in the area


Sheereen’s body put in suitcase for transport by taxi

Following the death of Mariyam Sheereen her body was put into a small suitcase and transported to a construction site by taxi cab, the Maldives Police Service have claimed.

“We have found the suitcase and there is evidence in there that shows it once held Sheereen’s body,” Inspector Hamdhoon Rasheed told a press conference late today.

“The taxi driver had no knowledge that he was carrying a body in his boot.”

Thirty year-old Sheereen, of Laamu Gan, was found dead in a construction site in Male’ on 3 January by a Bangladeshi labourer.

“We can confirm that the body was found 36 hours after death, but we don’t believe she was [in the construction site] for that time,” Rasheed said.

Asked how the 4 foot 9 inch Sheereen could have fitted into the 2.5 foot long suitcase, Rasheed replied that “there were no bones broken in her body, but our investigations have shown that after death it is possible to fit a body into a small suitcase such as this.”

The Maldives Police Service have also confirmed that the man arrested in relation to the death of Mariyam Sheereen death was her boyfriend, 30 year-old Mohamed Najah of Laamu Kalhaidhoo, Ocean Villa (pictured).

Rasheed said that Najah was maintaining his innocence and was cooperating with police.

Police are still investigating the case and no other suspects have been arrested so far.