The Maldives Police Services have arrested Mohamed Meeaadh – 35 years old, – on suspicion of torching and destroying opposition-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV’s headquarters on October 7.
A manhunt was called for Meeaadh in mid October. On receiving a tip off, the police obtained a court warrant to search Henveiru Roasary Light house. He was apprehended hiding alone in a ground floor room at 11:50pm last night.
According to the police, Meeaadh is also on the run from a separate drug related sentence. In November 2012, the Criminal Court had sentenced Meeaad in absentia to ten years in jail for illegal possession of prescription drugs.
The police have previously arrested 7 adults and a minor for suspected involvement in the arson attack. The unnamed adults include a 24 year old, a 20 year old, two 22 year olds, and two 18 year olds. The minor is 17 years old.
The police have urged the public to forward any information regarding the attack and have pledged to provide protection to informers.
CCTV footage of the attack shows six masked men armed with machetes and iron rods breaking through a reinforced steel grill and a second wooden door before dousing the station’s control room and lobby with petrol. The ensuing fire destroyed the station’s offices, control room, computer system, and broadcasting and transmission equipment.
The station returned to air the same day on donated equipment.
Further footage shows an additional six masked men breaking and entering the building located next to the BKT Builing where Raajje TV’s offices are located. Raajje TV has said it believes the six men were attempting to find the station’s second studios.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the police for failure to defend the station despite Raajje TV’s repeated requests for police protection, and the forwarding of a specific threat the previous evening.
Raajje TV has continuously received threats since the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.
The police have recently concluded a Supreme Court ordered investigation into a report which criticized the Supreme Court and the judiciary. Police have this week asked the Prosecutor General to press charges against both the News Head of Raajje Television Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed and the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Station Abdulla Yameen Rasheed.
In July 2012, the police and the President’s Office had said it would not cooperate with the TV station, blocking the station from President’s Office’s press conferences and denying police protection at protests.
The Civil Court has since ruled that the police and President’s Office’s decisions to ostracize the station were both unconstitutional.
In August 2012, critical cables in the station’s control room were cut, terminating the station’s broadcast. Several Raajje TV journalists have also reported arbitrary arrests and assaults.
In February 2013, men wielding iron rods on motorbikes assaulted Asward 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. It reaches India and Sri Lanka and is also streamed online.