A family in Malé are planning to sue police for entering their residence without permission or a court warrant to arrest two young men accused of assaulting officers.
Residents of Galolhu Sheen told Minivan News that more than 10 police officers barged into the house around 10:50pm on Monday night and “brutally” arrested two brothers, aged 17 and 19, who were not from the house but were friends of the family.
As well as submitting a complaint to the Police Integrity Commission, the family plan to sue the police for unlawful entry and damages over “psychological harm” suffered by young children who witnessed the incident.
The constitution bars entry to homes under most conditions, with article 47(b) reading: “Residential property shall be inviolable, and shall not be entered without the consent of the resident, except to prevent immediate and serious harm to life or property, or under the express authorisation of an order of the court.”
A police media official told Minivan News that a court order was not needed when a person “commits a criminal offence and flees from police”.
The official added that under those circumstances, the residence was considered part of the “crime scene”.
The incident occurred after scuffles between patrolling police and army officers and a group of young men talking outside Galolhu Sheen.
Police and army officers have been patrolling the streets of Malé as part of a joint security operation launched following a spate of violent assaults in the capital that saw a 29-year-old man murdered on March 29.
Three army officers and one police officer approached the group and told them to leave, one of the young men – a resident of Sheen – told Minivan News on the condition of anonymity.
“The police officer in dark blue uniform didn’t have a name tag,” he said.
The group of friends told the security services personnel that they would leave in a moment, he said, but were repeatedly ordered to leave immediately.
When two of the young men complained about the officers addressing them with obscene language, the security officials became angered and tried to arrest the pair, he said.
An officer grabbed one of them and twisted his arm, he continued, which prompted his brother to intervene.
He alleged that one of the soldiers punched the 17-year-old and the police officer started pepper spraying the pair in the face.
The situation calmed down in about five minutes, he added.
“I said there’s no need to fight, you can take them if you want. I told [the officers] to wait, I’m going to take them inside to wash their faces,” he said.
The officers did not respond or prevent them going inside, he stressed.
About 14 police officers then entered the residence through the main door, which leads to a narrow corridor with family quarters on the side.
Three or four police officers then barged into the room where the pair were washing their faces and dragged the older brother out after allegedly punching him.
Police pepper also sprayed him at close range, after which another group of officers entered the room and dragged out the younger brother.
He stressed that the door was open and the officers did not seek permission or ask the pair to come out.
Police said in a statement yesterday that an 18-year-old and 19-year-old were arrested for assaulting a police officer. The officer did not sustain injuries, the statement added.
However, sources who spoke to Minivan News insist that the younger of the two teenagers involved is 17 years of age.
The criminal court yesterday extended the remand detention of the minor to five days in police custody and placed the older brother under house arrest for five days.
The owner of the home told Minivan News that she gave a statement to police today about the incident.
She arrived home while police were entering and asked for an explanation, she said, but police did not respond. Upon arriving in the area, she was immediately affected by the pepper spray in the air.
While police were dragging out the older brother – who was on the ground and apparently crying in pain – she grabbed his shirt and asked police why they were arresting him.
“They said ‘he spoke to us with filthy language, he can be taken, we’re taking him,'” she recalled.
A woman who was inside Galolhu Sheen wears a face veil and noted that the officers could have caught her without the veil when they entered her quarters without permission.
Her seven-year-old, ten-year-old, and 17-year-old were woken up when police entered, and witnessed the incident from upstairs.
She said the brothers frequently visited the house for sleepovers. The younger boy had been a vice captain at his school.
After seeing police beating the pair inside their apartment, the children ran and hid inside a wardrobe, she said, and could not sleep later that night.
“We hear from people that [police] are brutal, but now we’ve seen with our own eyes,” she said.
“The seven-year-old also saw how they treated [the pair]. He didn’t want to go to her Quran class last night. He said, ‘I can’t go anywhere at night, mommy, the bad police will come.'”
Her children were traumatised by the incident, she said, and one of them today that she “wished we had an iron gate.”
Photo: police officers stop and search suspects last week