The opposition alliance have vowed to continue anti-government protests tonight despite the arrest of 193 protesters and leaders of the allied parties after clashes at yesterday’s May Day rally.
Police have meanwhile threatened to break up any demonstration held without prior notice as soon as it starts. The ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ coalition has urged supporters to gather at the artificial beach at 9:00pm.
The goal of the May Day protest march was to “bring an end to brutality,” but was met with a brutal police crackdown, said main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ after a meeting of the alliance’s steering committee.
Police have said that protesters assaulted police officers, damaged the property of the security services and the public, and disrupted public order and safety. Two police officers have been flown to Sri Lanka for treatment of injuries.
However, opposition leaders accused police of using “excessive and disproportionate force” against protesters after 30,000 people took to the streets of the capital.
Police cracked down with tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades, and baton charges after protesters attempted to enter the ‘green zone’ to perform dusk prayers at the Islamic centre. Gatherings are prohibited at the Republic square in front of the mosque.
Ibu said the alliance had planned to pray on the street after marching to the western end of Majeedhee Magu, but the leadership decided to pray at the Islamic centre as police had told the AP that no protest activity should take place between dusk and evening prayers.
While such an order was unconstitutional, Ibu said the opposition leaders decided not to carry out any activities during the specified period.
“We had a plan. We tried for the people gathered with us to the Islamic centre any way they could. But you saw how police acted after that,” he said.
Responding to criticism of the opposition leaders “fleeing” the scene after the crackdown, Sheikh Mohamed Didi from the Adhaalath Party said the leaders went to pray at nearby homes when it became clear they could not enter the Islamic centre.
Former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof said reports suggested the number of people arrested yesterday could be as high as 280 and not 193 as police have said.
“We are clarifying this information. This number of people have never been arrested in Maldivian history,” he said.
Mahloof also criticised the Police Integrity Commission for claiming police had acted professionally and with restraint. The independent MP said police beat up several protesters.
Further clashes took place at 8pm after protesters regrouped at Chandhanee Magu with Specialist Operations (SO) officers periodically charged the crowd and made dozens of arrest.
Police have made public video footage of protesters tripping and beating up a lone SO officer. The officer was rescued by protesters and brought behind police lines, prompting a baton charge. Police said another officer was injured when a protest pickup broke through police lines near the fish market.
Ibu said pro-government supporters had infiltrated the crowd yesterday and that the alliance is looking into the assault of the police officer on Chaandhanee Magu to determine who was involved.
Mahloof claimed the incident occurred shortly after an SO pickup charged into the crowd at high speed, which angered the protesters.
The alliance regrets the incident and does not encourage violence, he said, and suggested that the officer might have been assaulted by gangs paid by the government.
Local media reported officials at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGHM) as saying that neither the police officers nor protesters suffered serious injuries. Five police officers and six civilians were treated at IGMH while four protesters were treated at ADK.
Meanwhile, invoking authority under the 2013 freedom of assembly law to restrict the constitutional right to protest, police announced today that further protests will not be allowed unless police are given advance notice.
“We notify protest organisers that gatherings held without giving notice or providing full information to police will be stopped at the time of commencement,” the Maldives Police Service warned in a statement this afternoon.
The 2013 law requires organisers to uphold public interest and notify police if the protest is to take place on public roads. The law also states that the right to assembly can be limited in the interests of maintaining national security, public order, and stability.
Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof was released from police custody today, after the high court overturned an ‘unconstitutional’ 15-day detention order and protest ban.
Mahloof was arrested from an opposition protest on March 26 for crossing a police barricade, but since then the criminal court repeatedly re-detained him when he refused to accept a conditional release that would require him to stay away from protests for 30 days.
“The High Court said Mahloof can only be held in custody if there is reason to believe he may flee or fail to attend court hearings. Judges said attending protests is not a reason for detention,” lawyers said.
Mahloof, a close associate of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in February after he publicly criticised President Abdulla Yameen and the government.
He is now part of the Alliance against Brutality, an anti-government coalition, which has been protesting daily over the imprisonment of rival politicians including former president Mohamed Nasheed.
Speaking to the press today, Mahloof apologised for campaigning to bring president Yameen to power.
“I would like to apologise to the people of Maldives for helping such a brutal ruler assume power,” he said.
Human rights group Madivian Democracy Network said the criminal court had released at least 50 protesters on the condition they do not participate in further protests for 30-60 days.
Former president of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Dr Ibrahim Didi was arrested and held for 15 days last month when he was seen at an opposition protest after having agreed to the criminal court’s conditional release.
Dr Didi was released yesterday.
Earlier in March, MDP MP Fayyaz Ismail was held for 15 days when he too refused the criminal court’s conditional release.
MDP MP Eva Abdulla today called on opposition supporters to disobey unlawful court rulings, and urged the watchdog judicial services commission (JSC) to punish “unqualified judges.”
“What we have here are judges who do not know democracy dispensing unconstitutional sentences. But the checks and balances provided in our constitution is simply not working. The JSC refuses to investigate the judges, and the parliament controlled by the government refuses to hold the JSC accountable. Ultimately, the people are denied any form of justice,” she said.
Last week, the police denied family visits to Mahloof after they discovered “illegal” areca nuts in his pocket.
Mahloof today accused the police of discrimination, saying his lawyers were only allowed to see him before 6pm, while others could see their clients until 11pm.
Detained parliamentarian Ahmed Mahloof has been denied family visits over the discovery of areca nuts in his pocket, as police prepare to bring charges against him.
Mahloof’s wife, Nazra Naseem, said police cancelled a family visit planned for Saturday on the discovery of the “illegal” areca nuts.
The most high-profile defector from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Mahloof has been attending Majlis (parliament) because of a rule specifying that detained lawmakers must be brought to sessions.
“MPs have access to things like areca nuts in the Majlis during meal times. I think that if it is unlawful, it is the police’s responsibility to make sure these things are inaccessible to him,” Nazra said.
Police said they had sent charges of disobedience to order against Mahloof to the prosecutor general’s office relating to events at a protest on March 25, but said it would be for state prosecutors to decide whether to proceed with the case.
Mahloof, a close associate of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in February after he publicly criticised President Abdulla Yameen and the government.
He is now part of the Alliance against Brutality, an anti-government coalition. He was arrested at an opposition protest on March 25 on suspicion of disobedience to orders after police said he had passed a barricade.
Mahloof has been repeatedly re-detained since then after refusing to accept a conditional release that would require him to stay away from protests for 30 days.
Other opposition figures have suggested that authorities may be planning separate charges against him.
Sheikh Imran Abdulla, head of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, tweeted that the government was seeking to press terrorism charges against Mahloof.
After his latest court hearing, an altercation took place in which Mahloof’s wife said police pinched her, twisted her arm and tore buttons from her top. Police have denied this.
Nazra has filed complaints with the Human Rights Commission and Police Integrity Commission over the incident on Monday.
Jeehan Mohmood, a member of the Human Rights Commission, confirmed that it was investigating Nazra’s case, while Abdul Aziz Yoosuf, director general of the Police Integrity Commission, told Minivan News the PIC was also looking into the incident.
“My hope is that the independent institutions will look into my case as tomorrow another woman may be treated the same way,” said Nazra.
Separately, the Human Rights Commission is also reviewing 20 cases of protesters who were released from detention on condition they stay away from protests, Jeehan told Minivan News.
Photo of police forcing Mahloof into a police vehicle on April 3, taken by Munshid Mohamed.
MP Ahmed Mahloof has accused Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb of using gangs to commit politically motivated “state-sponsored” crimes.
In an appearance on opposition-aligned Raajje TV last night, Mahloof alleged the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) deputy leader’s involvement in a number of “atrocities,” including the arson attack on Raajje TV in October 2013 and the stabbing of former MP Alhan Fahmy in February 2014.
“In reality, the current government is a big gang,” he said.
“There aren’t that many people in this gang. There about six people in this gang. President Yameen is the boss. Some people might find this hard to hear, but I’m saying this with daring because President Yameen would not keep Adeeb close knowing the serious atrocities in this country are carried out by him.”
Adeeb was responsible for bringing both the government and the PPM into disrepute and creating divisions within the party, he added.
On Sunday night (March 15), Mahloof alleged that a group of about ten men attempted to break into his apartment after Adeeb threatened him over the phone.
Adeeb has denied the allegations, claiming Mahloof was getting paid or bribed to defame him and President Abdulla Yameen. The tourism minister has also dismissed allegations of connections with criminal gangs.
The MP for Galolhu South was expelled from the PPM last month for allegedly defaming President Yameen.
Mahloof claimed last night that Adeeb demanded he pay back MVR5 million (US$324,254) and threatened him over the phone.
The group of young men tried to enter his apartment about two hours later, he said.
Referring to a group of six young men threatening opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) demonstrators with knives on Sunday night before smashing up a lorry and loudspeakers, Mahloof claimed Adeeb assures immunity from prosecution to the youth involved in the attacks.
A number of senior police officers were beholden to Adeeb and followed his orders, Mahloof continued, claiming other police officers were unhappy with the release of young men arrested for attacking peaceful protesters.
Any police officer who tries to investigate Adeeb would be fired, he claimed.
Speaking to reporters outside the parliament building yesterday, Mahloof alleged that Adeeb had admitted to paying gangs to torch the motorcycle of then-MP-elect Mohamed Abdulla ‘Muhamma’ in May 2014 before he switched from the Jumhooree Party (JP) to PPM.
Police intelligence had learned of Adeeb’s involvement, Mahloof claimed, adding that Adeeb had told him the plan was “to make it look like the JP did it” after MP Abdulla publicly declared that he would support the government if his party left the ruling coalition.
In his Raajje TV appearance, Mahloof said he had never faced any threats or feared attacks from the MDP despite his outspoken criticism of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
However, Mahloof said he now believed an attack or attempt to frame him was likely.
He also accused the tourism minister of corruption, claiming resort owners had told him that Adeeb demands MVR500,000 (US$32,425) for a meeting.
Mahloof claimed a youth allegedly involved in torching Raajje TV studios personally told him that he met Adeeb to plan the attack.
Moreover, former Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz – now an opposition JP MP – said the police investigation established Adeeb’s involvement, he added.
Mahloof also claimed that Adeeb confessed to having Specialist Operations (SO) police officers chop down all of Malé City Council’s areca palms in October. Adeeb has paid off a number of SO officers, he alleged.
Mahloof further claimed that the PPM parliamentary group was initially against the dismissal of Supreme Court Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain.
But Adeeb came to a parliamentary group meeting and told MPs that “Yameen believes this should be done and we will decide those who don’t vote for this are against the government.”
Only Mahloof and MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed voted against issuing a three-line whip to dismiss the chief justice, he added.
Moreover, PPM MP Ahmed Nazim – former deputy speaker – was out of favour with President Yameen after he revealed “with evidence” alleged corruption involving Adeeb to the president, which later became the subject of an audit report implicating the tourism minister in a US$6 million corruption scandal.
Mahloof said he does not plan to join a political party in the near future and preferred to remain an independent MP, but added that he was willing to work with the opposition.
Recently dismissed Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, currently standing trial for weapons smuggling, has told the Criminal Court that SO officers planted a pistol and three bullets at his apartment during a midnight raid on Adeeb’s orders on January 18. The pair had fallen out after the ex Defence Minister informed President Yameen of the Tourism Minister’s involvement in chopping down Malé City’s Areca Palms, Nazim alleged.
The Tourism Minister has dismissed the allegations as lies.
The disciplinary committee of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has decided to expel Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahloof for allegedly bringing President Abdulla Yameen into disrepute with false statements in the media.
Ali Waheed, the committee’s vice chairman, told the press yesterday that Mahloof did not deny making the statements in question on opposition-aligned Raajje TV when he was summoned to answer the charges.
“The committee decided that this action was absolutely necessary,” Waheed said, adding that the decision to dismiss the MP was reached unanimously by the three members who participated in deliberations.
The PPM council member was accused of making statements that could cause loss of public confidence in President Yameen as well as misleading the public concerning the arrest of former Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim.
Speaking to Minivan News after attending the disciplinary committee meeting, Mahloof said he told the committee he had “no problem with President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom]”.
“I did not say anything against [Gayoom] on Raajje TV,” he insisted.
“I told them that I spoke about President’s Yameen because of how the government is being run. My intention is not to defame or damage anyone but to put things on the right track.
“I was removed from the party just like how the Auditor General and Supreme Court Justices were removed. In haste and without giving due process”
Asked whether he would challenge the committee’s decision at the party’s appeals committee, Mahloof said the committee’s decision to dismiss him instead of issuing a warning or imposing a fine suggested the move was planned in advance.
“I know this was very much planned, I do not believe the party’s appeal committee will properly look into the matter,” he said.
“I do not trust the party’s internal mechanisms to deliver justice, therefore I shall not pursue the matter within the party.”
Asked whether he would join another party, Mahloof revealed that he had been in contact with both former President Mohamed Nasheed and Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim, “but no arrangements have been made so far.”
“I need some time to think this through. I will decide on whether I should join a party or not after some contemplation and consultation with my constituents,” he added.
“So far, the reaction from my constituents have been positive and supportive. They understand that I am standing up for justice and principles. This is not the end to my political career, I will always serve the people and no one can put a halt to my political career.”
In his Raajje TV appearance on Sunday night, Mahloof said President Yameen was misusing the PPM’s parliamentary majority and called for the immediate release of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Nazim.
Mahloof alleged that police “framed” Nazim by planting a pistol and bullets in his apartments as a pretext for his arrest.
Nazim’s treatment by President Yameen’s administration was “a thousand times worse” than former President Nasheed’s arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his tenure, he said.
Mahloof also criticised the PPM’s decision to sever its coalition agreement with the JP after Gasim Ibrahim stood for the post of Majlis speaker, adding that he had supported Gasim’s candidacy as maintaining the coalition would have preempted the present crisis.
Declaring his loyalty to Gayoom and vowing never to speak ill of the PPM leader, Mahloof claimed the former president was “not in the picture” and was not involved in the government’s decision-making process, adding that Gayoom was unhappy with the current administration’s direction.
However, the PPM put out a press release the following day denying any rift between PPM Leader Gayoom and his half-brother President Yameen.
MP Ahmed Mahloof has resigned as the spokesperson of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) yesterday.
The MP for Galolhu South revealed on social media Twitter that he had resigned at the request of the party and later told online news outlet CNM that PPM Deputy Leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla had told him to resign.
After resigning previously, Mahloof returned to the post in July 2013 reportedly at the behest of party members.
Asked if he would remain with the party, Mahloof told CNM that he was a PPM member “at the moment”.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof has proposed conducting a public referendum on the death penalty to allow voters to decide whether to restore capital punishment.
Speaking at a press conference at the PPM office this morning, the MP for Galolhu South said he was planning to submit a resolution to parliament on conducting the referendum simultaneously with the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.
Mahloof accused all three branches of the state of “making excuses” to avoid enforcing the death penalty, claiming that 99 percent of the public supported its reintroduction.
“When this issue comes to the People’s Majlis, they say very easily that this has been determined by religion so we don’t have to make a decision here. When it goes to the judiciary, they say the People’s Majlis has to make a decision on implementing death sentences,” the PPM spokesperson said.
“When the home minister issues an order to implement [death sentences], the government is saying today that we have to make a decision at the cabinet.”
Referring to the recent stabbing of MP Alhan Fahmy at a restaurant, Mahloof contended that lack of enforcement had emboldened criminals “to the point where people in senior posts of the state are attacked in open spaces.”
“So they will not hesitate to [attack] an ordinary citizen. This is a very serious matter,” he said.
Mahloof added that his purpose was to “build pressure” on the government to enforce the death penalty.
While presidential candidates spoke in favour of the death penalty during last year’s campaign, Mahloof observed that implementation efforts remained “stalled”.
The government would be forced to enforce capital punishment if the issue was decided in a public referendum, he added.
Mahloof also said that he was seeking signatures from MPs to hold an extraordinary sitting of parliament during the ongoing recess to debate the resolution. A sitting can be held during recess upon request by 26 MPs.
The ruling party MP said he met Elections Commission Vice President Ahmed Fayaz yesterday and was assured that the commission would discuss the issue of the referendum.
Article 70 of the constitution states that the lawmaking powers of the People’s Majlis include “the holding of public referendums on issues of public importance.”
Mahloof’s resolution – shared on social media today – states that seeking public opinion on the death penalty would alleviate international pressure and rebut those who claim Maldivians did not favour it.
“Despite the death penalty being prescribed in Islam, sentences are not implemented because of foreign and domestic pressure,” he tweeted.
President Abdulla Yameen – on a state visit to Sri Lanka at the time of Naseer’s announcement – meanwhile told the press that the home minister’s order was not discussed at cabinet and promised “broad discussions” on the issue.