Police cleared of wrongdoing in manhandling ex-president

The police watchdog has determined that police officers used proportionate force and acted legally when they escorted former President Mohamed Nasheed to the criminal court on February 23.

Nasheed appeared for the first hearing of his terrorism trial with his arms in a makeshift sling. Police officers had manhandled and dragged the opposition leader inside the court building when he stopped to speak with journalists.

However, citing testimony from police officers and video footage obtained for its inquiry, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) said “Nasheed stopped near the gate of the justice building and refused police orders to go into the building.”

Minivan News journalists saw Nasheed repeatedly asking the the police to let him walk into the court, but police officers dragged him in by force, ripping his shirt open in the process.

The PIC launched an inquiry after the former president submitted a complaint alleging police brutality.

Nasheed was subsequently sentenced to 13 years in prison over terrorism charges related to the detention of a judge during his tenure. Foreign governments, the UN, and international human rights organisations widely criticised the 19-day trial over its apparent lack of due process.

The PIC said in a press statement today that police officers acted in accordance with regulations and used “force necessary in the situation.”

The office of former President Nasheed has slammed the PIC’s statement, noting that the oversight body had not sought statements from Nasheed or journalists who witnessed the incident.

Nasheed’s office accused the commission of defending police for political reasons, calling on the watchdog to act independently and to conduct impartial investigations into complaints of police misconduct.

Meanwhile, Nasheed was brought to the Malé from Maafushi prison this afternoon for a doctor’s appointment at the Senahiya military hospital.


“He was brought for medical examination several days after doctors in Maafushi Health Centre recommended for him to be examined by medical specialists,” read a separate statement from Nasheed’s office.

Doctors at the health centre had recommended on May 7 that Nasheed should have an MRI and consult a dentist, but the authorities had denied requests from his family and lawyers to provide medical care, the statement added.

The former president’s office noted that “Senahiya is not a tertiary hospital and the authorities have not given any reason why he is being treated at a health clinic and not a well equipped hospital in the Maldives.”

Hundreds of supporters gathered near the Senehiya hospital this afternoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the former president who has not been seen since he was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13.

Police arrested Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla’s husband Ahmed Shahid (Saabe) near the hospital for allegedly disobeying orders. He was released by the court within hours.


Civil Court rejects Nazim’s defamation case against police chief

The Civil Court has rejected a defamation case filed on behalf of former Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim against Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed.

Briefing the press today on the status of several cases relating to Nazim’s arrest and prosecution on charges of weapons possession, terrorism and treason, Hameed revealed that the Civil Court refused to accept the defamation case on the grounds that the police chief has legal immunity for statements made in his official capacity.

Nazim’s lawyers sued Waheed for telling the press on January 29 that an improvised explosive device was found in Nazim’s home.

Hameed said at the time that the explosive device had not been found during the initial search, and was not listed in a record of items found, explaining that police only announced its discovery days later after an analysis conducted without independent oversight.

The legal team would request a review of the Civil Court registrar’s decision, Hameed told the press today, contending that the immunity was specified in a regulation pre-dating both the 2008 constitution and the Police Act.

The legal team was also awaiting replies from the Civil Court regarding lawsuits against Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin for alleged violations of Nazim’s constitutional rights and “malicious prosecution” of his wife, Afaaf Abdul Majeed.

The PG office withdrew charges of weapons possession against Afaaf on February 25.

Afaaf has also sued PG Muhsin for defamation.

Hameed also revealed that the PG office yesterday declined to provide information requested under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act. The legal team has subsequently filed a case against the PG office at the Civil Court.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has meanwhile met Nazim today to seek a statement for its investigation of a complaint regarding Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed, Hameed noted, adding that the Human Rights Commission of Maldives was also investigating a similar complaint.

The legal team also submitted complaints to the PIC regarding the SWAT team involved in the midnight raid, Hameed said, adding that the PIC has said it was in the process of gathering information in response to a separate FoI request.


Suspect in Rilwan’s disappearance released from house arrest

The Criminal Court has released the last remaining suspect related to the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan from house arrest (December 1).

A police media official told Minivan News that the suspect was released after the criminal court deemed it was unnecessary to keep him under house arrest any longer.

The suspect was kept under house arrest in relation to what is believed to have been an abduction at knife-point from outside Rilwan’s Hulhumalé apartment on the night of August 8.

Rilwan’s family and local NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) have filed two separate cases at the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) accusing the police of negligence in the investigation.

An MDN commissioned private investigation by a UK based security firm outlined several lines of inquiry into the disappearance with pointing out radicalised gang related abduction as the most likely explanation for the disappearance.


MDN alerts PIC over failure to investigate criminal activity in missing journalist report

Human rights group Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has requested the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) to probe police’s failure to investigate dangerous criminal activity outlined in a report into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

The report – which claimed Rilwan was likely to have been abducted by radicalised gangs – was sent to the police on September 22 along with a letter requesting the police investigate its findings, MDN said.

The police proceeded to dismiss the report, however, claiming it was released for “political gain,” and has not yet informed the NGO if it has looked into any of the allegations.

The investigation – conducted by Glasgow based Athena Intelligence and Security – identified possible suspects in Rilwan’s disappearance, and confirmed hostile surveillance of Rilwan on the night he went missing. It also linked his disappearance to an abduction at knifepoint outside Rilwan’s apartment on the same night.

“The Maldives Police Services failed to investigate the various criminal actions outlined in the report in the past 2 months and 26 days,” MDN’s letter to the PIC on Monday read.

“We request that your commission investigate and take action against those police officers who have been negligent in this case.” Criminal activity highlighted in the report include:

  • Death threats issued against Rilwan by the administrators of Facebook Group Bilad Al-Sham and stalking by an individual called Ismail Abdul Raheem
  • Abduction with a knife reported on August 8 in front of Rilwan’s apartment
  • Hostile surveillance of Rilwan by at least two people belonging to Kuda Henveiru gang in Malé

Home Minister Umar Naseer has also acknowledged involvement of gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance. Meanwhile, Rilwan’s family has also lodged a complaint at the PIC accusing the Maldives Police Services of negligence.

The police had failed to treat the case seriously despite Rilwan’s high risk profile, the family said. Although an abduction reported outside Rilwan’s apartment at 2 am on August 8, the police only took statements from eyewitnesses on August 14, the family noted.

Further, the police officer in charge of the Hulhumalé police station prevented junior officers from apprehending and searching the car used in the abduction on the same night, the family said.

“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,” Rilwan’s sister Mariyam Fazna has 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.

In a statement to mark the 100 days of disappearance, Rilwan’s mother Aminath Easa said the state had failed to protect her son and bring perpetrators to justice.

Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed had previously denied negligence while the home minister told state television that some crimes could not be solved.

Related to this story

MDN investigation implicates radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance

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

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

“Not all crimes in the world are solvable”: Home minister says on Rilwan’s disappearance


We don’t wish anyone else to go through same pain: Rilwan’s family

The family of missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan have welcomed the decision of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) to look into allegations of negligence related to the investigation of his disappearance.

“We do not wish for any other family to face the pain and suffering this family has gone through in the past 95 days since Rilwan disappeared,” said the family in a press release today.

Pointing out that the suspected abduction of Rilwan was the first such case in the country’s history, the family said it was essential for the community that the investigation be trustworthy

“Police are reluctant to investigate to the extent that it leaves room to doubt their intention,” continued today’s statement.

While one suspect remains in custody in connection with the August 8 disappearance, Home Minister Umar Naseer has said last week that some cases cannot be solved, drawing parallels with missing Malaysian flight MH370 and the JFK assassination.

Naseer had acknowledged that gangs were involved before offering contradictory statements suggesting it could not yet be determined whether Rilwan’s disappearance was voluntary or enforced.

A private investigative report commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) in September ruled out suicide or voluntary disappearance, concluding radicalised gangs to have been the most likely culprits.

Both Naseer and Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed have taken aim at civil society and the media, as well as friends and family of the missing journalist, suggesting vital leads had been lost due to leaked information.

Accusations of a lack of respect shown to the family formed part of the complaint lodged by the family with the police watchdog.

“While the [MDN] report was not compiled with any involvement of the family, police making such allegations against the family are against professionalism of the police and rules for dealing with people who request the police’s service,” the family explained.

Repeated attempts to obtain information on the investigation prompted one police official to tell a family memeber: ‘There’s no further information to give even if you come every day made up like that wearing a burqa’.

PIC Chair Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef told Minivan News last week that the case was like none the commission had ever received.

Other allegations made by the family suggest police did not properly consider a reported abduction outside Rilwan’s Hulhumalé apartment, previous kidnappings by gangs, and reports that he was followed and threatened as evidence indicating he may have been taken.

It is also alleged that officers in charge of Hulhumalé police station refused to authorise a request by colleagues to search a car stopped the same night, despite potential links with the reported abduction.

Police Commissioner Waheed has rejected accusations of negligence.

“I don’t believe any slips have been made in the investigation which would justify the accusation. But there are lessons to be learned with every investigation. We are learning the lessons,” he told Haveeru late last month.

Attempts to bring pressure to bear through elected representatives failed last month after the People’s Majlis rejected a petitions signed by over 5000 people for as yet unclear reasons.

Groups from across civil society have called for the search for Rilwan to be expedited, with Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) adding its voice today.

“The Centre for Independent Journalism stands in solidarity with our colleagues in the Maldives and urges you to ensure that an independent and unbiased police investigation takes place; that those responsible for the disappearance are brought to justice; and that Ahmed Rilwan is returned home to his family and friends,” read a CIJ statement.


Rilwan suspect’s detention extended for the fifth time

The Criminal Court has again extended the detention of the sole suspect remaining in custody in relation to the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

Police  have today confirmed that the suspect, whose identity has not been revealed to the public, had his extension extended for the fifth time yesterday (November 4) – giving police another ten days to conduct investigations.

No further details of the case’s progress have been made public.

After the Majlis rejected a 5000 signature petition calling for greater efforts in the search, the family last month lodged an official complaint with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), accusing the Maldives Police Service of negligence.

PIC Director General Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef told Minivan News today that the commission has decided to investigate the case, and has begun compiling relevant information.

“We have never had a case like this before,” explained Fathimath, who was unable to give a time frame for the investigation due to its “sensitive” nature.

Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed has rejected the accusations, telling local media last week that the police service had not forgotten about Rilwan’s case. Police said earlier this week that investigations were progressing “speedily”.

Four suspects were arrested in connection with the disappearance of the 28-year-old shortly after the release of a private investigative report into the suspected abduction. Three, however, were released shortly after.

Authorities – including the police commissioner and home minister – have condemned the report, suggesting that the publication of suspects’ names had jeopardised their own investigations, leading to the loss of valuable leads.

The report – conducted by a UK-based security company – noted “hostile surveillance” of Rilwan in the moments prior to his disappearance, concluding that the most likely groups to have been involved in his abduction were radicalised gangs – a theory supported by comments from Home Minister Umar Naseer.

Rilwan’s family lodged the official complaint with the PIC on October 29 , accusing the Maldives Police Service of not taking the case seriously, and of showing disrespect to the family since the disappearance 89 days ago.

“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 Rilwan’s sister 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, adding that the police had also failed to track down and search the car used in the abduction.


President nominates members to the Police Integrity Commission

President Abdulla Yameen has submitted three names to parliament to be considered for the posts of members of the Police Integrity Commission.

The names submitted by the president are Al Usthaz Ali Nadheem of Gloriosa in Henveiru ward of Malé, Fathimath Sarira Ali Shareef who is Malé Municipal Registry number 1320, and Mohamed Faruhadh of Hasankaarige from the island of Meedhoo in Addu City.


President’s Office opens calls for an Information Commissioner and a PIC member

The President’s Office has re-opened a call for applicants for the position of Information Commission and opened a call for applicants for membership of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).

The President’s Office said it had re-opened the call for Information Commissioner because only one applicant had answered the first call for applications in May.

The Information Commissioner position is a newly created independent office established by the landmark Right to Information Act.

The Act mandates President Abdulla Yameen to submit nominations for the post within 15 days of the Act coming into force on July 12. The People’s Majlis has to approve a nominee within 30 days of submission.

The call for applications will expire on June 22.

The PIC vacancy was caused by PIC member Dr Hala Hameed’s resignation earlier this year. Hala was appointed as State Minister for Health and Gender.

The call for applicants or PIC membership will expire on June 30.

Both applications are available on the President’s Office website.