Civil Court declares former police intelligence director’s arrest unlawful

The Civil Court has declared the Maldives Police Services’ arrest of former Director of Police Intelligence Sabra Noordeen on 16 March 2013 unlawful, unwarranted, and an ‘abuse of power’.

The court has also ordered the police to erase the record of the arrest and to issue a written apology.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Sabra said she had filed the case “because I wanted to set a legal precedent which would make the Police think about the wider rights and responsibilities they have to uphold before they exercise their powers.”

The police arrested Sabra upon her arrival at Malé International Airport on 16 March 2013 on the charge of “inciting violence” against a police officer on 5 March 2013 during the arrest of President Mohamed Nasheed. The police also confiscated her passport.

She was then handcuffed in order to be transferred to Dhoonidhoo prison. However, the police took her to Malé instead, and released her after issuing a summons to appear at the police station at a later date for questioning.

Sabra first appealed the Criminal Court warrant at the High Court and asked for compensation for damages. In August 2013, the High Court ruled the warrant valid, but said that Sabra should seek compensation at the Civil Court.

In yesterday’s verdict, the Civil Court noted the Criminal Court had not ordered the police to arrest Sabra, but had provided a warrant authorising her arrest upon the police’s request.

The court said she could only be arrested under such a warrant if there was “a necessity for her arrest”,  and if such a necessity ceases to exist, she should not be arrested “even if the warrant has not expired”.

The Civil Court noted that the High Court judges had deemed Sabra’s quick release on the day of her arrest to have been an indication of the lack of necessity for her arrest.

The Civil Court has also warned that the police’s abuse of power defeats the purpose for which the institution was founded, and would create doubt and fear about the the institution.

The verdict declared that Sabra’s arrest violated her right to protect her reputation and good name as guaranteed by Article 33 of the constitution, and the right to fair administrative action guaranteed by Article 43. The court also found that the police had acted against their primary objectives underlined in Article 244.

Following her arrest in March 2013, Sabra called for police reform in order for the institution to regain public confidence – including the dissolution of Special Operations unit and holding police officers accountable for misconduct and brutality.

“I quit the Maldives Police Service on 8 February 2012 with a profound sense of sadness for the institution and the colleagues I left behind. I do not believe that everyone in the MPS was involved in the mutiny or the coup and I do not believe in blaming everyone in a police uniform,” she wrote in an article detailing the events of her arrest.

Previously, the Criminal Court had declared the police’s arrest of incumbent Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and the arrest of Ghassaan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as unlawful.

In 2010, the Civil Court also declared the Maldives National Defense Force’s “protective custody” of current President Abdulla Yameen as unconstitutional, while the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of both Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim (both members of parliament at the time).

Accusations of brutality and misconduct by MPS officers are common and have been confirmed by various independent state institutions. Among them are the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) that looked in to the controversial power transfer of February 2012 and two constitutionally prescribed independent institutions – the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the Police Integrity Commission.


Summary: Testimony of former police intelligence chief to Government Oversight Committee

In January 2013, parliament’s Government Oversight Committee heard testimony from six of the highest-ranking officers of the police and military for its review of the Commission of National Inquiry’s (CoNI’s) report into the transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012. Minutes of the closed-door sessions (Dhivehi) along with audio recordings were made public on January 16, 2013.

Following is a translated summary of the testimony from former head of police intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed to the oversight committee on January 9, 2013. Hameed was fired in August 2012 by the police disciplinary board over allegations of leaking confidential information. He has since sued the police for unlawful termination.

Mohamed ‘MC’ Hameed joined the Maldives Police Service (MPS) on April 8, 1995. He was appointed head of the police intelligence department on January 17, 2010 following completion of a state-sponsored Masters degree in policing, intelligence and counterterrorism from the University of Sydney, Australia.

“I attended CoNI on April 15, 2012 and in addition I also attended the reconstituted CoNI. I believe it is because they did not consider what I said there to have much weight that important points from my two statements to CoNI were not highlighted in the report. The reason I am saying this is because what happened on February 6, 7 – I am not a legal expert but I have worked in the police profession for a very long time – I believe what happened with the police those two days should not have been seen from those belonging to a professional police service.”

Hameed believed that elements of the police mutinied on February 6 and 7. The CoNI report however did not highlight police misconduct, alleged brutality and disobedience that he “emphasised” at the commission.

When the new administration took office in November 2008, MPS did not have “a professional intelligence setup.” The previous intelligence department, known as Omega Sector, was referred among police as the “black room”. It was headed by current Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz.

Police intelligence was focused on the political opposition to the then-government and did not provide much assistance or cooperation for routine policing. Hameed’s “main purpose” as the new head of police intelligence in 2010 was “setting up an intelligence mechanism needed for policing or law enforcement.”

At CoNI, Hameed was asked why police intelligence had not learned of a plot to overthrow the government if the events of February 6 and 7 were orchestrated and planned in advance.

“I said very clearly, if intelligence operated in the way it did in the police service before 2008, the incidents of February 6 and 7 would not have happened. It would not have been allowed [to happen].”

Gathering information from the political arena was “not a priority at all” for the department. However, the intelligence department did monitor political activities, especially protests or demonstrations that affect public peace.

“Considering the information I was receiving in my post, I do not believe what occurred on those two days happened spontaneously.”

Police received intelligence that plans were made to carry out anti-government activities with police involvement to disrupt a mass gathering planned by the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for February 17, 2012 as part of its campaign for judicial reform.

“We had learned that discussions took place. This information would be recorded in the Maldives Police Service intelligence department intelligence reports and intelligence logs.”

On the night of February 6, when clashes erupted between opposition protesters and government supporters at the artificial beach, the intelligence department was monitoring the situation. Communications from the mutinying police from the Specialist Operations (SO) department at Republic Square were being intercepted.

An off-duty platoon from the SO was active at the artificial beach without orders.

Following the military’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed on January 16, 2012, anti-government graffiti was discovered in the toilets of the SO accommodation block at Iskandharu Koshi. The graffiti called for Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh, Deputy Commissioner Ismail Atheef and President Mohamed Nasheed to be killed.

“I believe that police as a whole was not ready for democratic governance. There were serious problems in the institution.”

The judge’s arrest sparked demonstrations by the opposition coalition for 22 consecutive nights. During that period, police would gather at the Republic Square at 7:00pm every night and follow the protests until 2:30am or 3am.

“The sole focus of police was on these demonstrations. During the whole day, the police service was almost asleep.”

On January 23, 2012, the intelligence department prepared an assessment report of the situation with a recommendation for the Commissioner of Police to seek the release of Judge Abdulla from military detention and find “another settlement” of the issue.

At the demonstrations outside the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) building, opposition leaders were publicly claiming that police and army officers would join their protest.

On January 17, 2012, ten senior police officers above the rank of chief inspector met with the Commissioner of Police and informed him that they “did not accept” having to control the protests against the judge’s arrest. The ten senior officers were in charge of police operations.

“One of them indirectly proposed that the commissioner resign that very day.”

In the coming days, police intelligence learned that some of the senior officers had separate meetings with the current Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA’ and Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim.

The ten senior officers were also noticeably absent from the police headquarters during the operations to control the opposition protests.

On January 18, 2012, President Mohamed Nasheed met with police officers of commissioned rank at the police headquarters theatre hall and attempted to explain the reasons for the judge’s arrest. A few days later, an audio clip of President Nasheed’s talk was leaked and broadcast on opposition-aligned DhiTV and Villa TV.

A police officer of a junior rank was meanwhile caught relaying information of the operation to opposition politicians leading the demonstrations. Riot police officers were also seen to be reluctant in taking action against unruly demonstrators.

A few nights before February 6, opposition protesters marched to the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) building, located near the ruling party’s Haruge (meeting hall). In response, a group of MDP activists led by MDP MPs made their way to the Supreme Court building and MMA area.

In contrast to their attitude towards opposition demonstrators, SO officers deployed at the MMA area forcibly broke up the MDP protest as soon as it reached the police lines.

Police intelligence learned that a SO officer called Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof later that night and bragged of having beaten up MDP supporters. In the intercepted call, MP Mahloof asked the officer why they did not break the leg of MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik at the protest.

Based on such intelligence information, the assessment report prepared on January 23 warned that the likelihood of “police and army officers coming out against the government” was high.

In the early hours of February 7, the special assessment unit of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) responsible for intelligence regarding domestic security relayed information that PPM council member ‘Marz’ Ahmed Saleem was coordinating efforts to send speedboats to Dhoonidhoo and Feydhoo Finolhu to bring more police officers to join the mutinying police at the Republic Square.

Police intelligence also learned that some army officers inside military headquarters told the mutinying police around 4:00am that the soldiers would join the mutiny if they held on for four more hours. The intercepted calls between army and police officers were provided by MNDF intelligence.

At 10:30am on February 7, mutinying police assaulted Hameed and other senior officers inside the conference room on the 5th floor of the police headquarters and dragged them out “by the cuff”.

Hameed made his way to the office of the Police Commissioner on the 4th floor. At 11:00am, Chief Superintendent Abdulla Fairoosh came into the office, sat down and informed the commissioner that a team was going into the military headquarters to give President Nasheed an ultimatum. Fairoosh asked the commissioner what he intended to do.

“I took that indirectly [to mean] ‘I am taking over, so the commissioner of police should step aside or resign.’”

The commissioner then went to the conference room and made his parting remarks. All commissioned officers in Male’ were present, some in uniform and others in plainclothes. After the commissioner left, a vote was taken among the senior officers to appoint Fairoosh interim commissioner. Two assistant commissioners were present.

After Fairoosh took charge, Chief Superintendent Ahmed Saudhee then told Hameed that he was no longer head of the intelligence department. Hameed was to be replaced by Chief Inspector Abdul Mannan Yoosuf, who had been studying Business Administration in the UK and was in Male’ at the time on holiday.

Following the appointment of Abdulla Riyaz as commissioner on the night of February 8, 2012, Hameed was made a member of the executive team and appointed head of the service development directorate.

Earlier in the day, confronted by thousands of MDP supporters in a march across Male’, Hameed saw that the senior officers were “in shock” and appeared not to have command and control. Individual officers at the scene acted without orders.

As vice chair of the promotion board, Hameed also noted that 1,112 police officers were promoted on March 31, 2012 while only 600 forms were submitted under the normal promotion procedure. Commissioner of Police Riyaz had instructed heads of directorates to submit a list of officers in their departments for promotion.

Under promotion rules that were supposed to have been amended by then, the commissioner is authorised to “deviate from the normal promotion routine” and promote officers who have shown “special” qualities or exceptional performance.

The new lists were hastily approved during a promotion board meeting after midnight on March 31 while the promotion ceremony was scheduled for 10:00am the next morning. The board meeting was chaired first by Commissioner Riyaz and then Deputy Commissioner Hussain Waheed. The latter was receiving phone calls as late as 3:00am to add new names to the list of officers to be promoted.

Hameed’s objection to promoting officers suspected of brutality and breach of ethics on February 6, 7 and 8 was ignored. SO officers involved in the events were given single and double promotions.

“What we saw was that officers with a disciplinary record from the floor to the ceiling were given promotion by the executive board.”

Hameed further noted that failure to preserve CCTV footage from February 7 cast doubt on the “integrity of the current [police] leadership.” The footage was automatically wiped out on March 7, 2012.


Two men arrested with 325 bottles of alcohol

Police have arrested two men found to be in possession of 325 bottles of alcohol in Male’ on Thursday afternoon.

According to the Maldives Police Service, the two men were arrested as part of a joint operation conducted by the Police Intelligence and Drug Enforcement Department (DED).

Police confirmed to local media that a Bangladeshi and Maldivian national were arrested as part of the operation.

Police said the Maldivian suspected was 34 years-old, while the Bangladeshi man was 22 years-old.  No further details on the suspects were provided.

Meanwhile in Addu City, police have also announced the arrest of six men and a minor with MVR 53,000 (US$3430) and illegal narcotics.

The arrests, which were made on Tuesday (January 22), formed part of a wider on-going operation called ‘Our Peaceful Addu City’, which was commenced by police to try and reduce crimes rates in the area.

“The six men were arrested at about 10:50 pm on January 22 during a raid on Thamannaa House in Addu City,” police said in a statement, adding that the raid was made following intelligence reports.

When police searched the house, officers discovered nine bullet-sized packets containing illegal narcotics, another 13 small packets of illegal drugs and a 500ml bottle containing home-made alcohol.

According to police, a sum of money totalling MVR 53,538, a laptop and a projector all suspected to have been stolen were also discovered inside the building at the time.


Former police intelligence head sues for “unlawful dismissal”

The Former head of the Police Intelligence Department Mohamed ‘MC’ Hameed has filed a lawsuit in the Civil Court against the Maldives Police Service, claiming that his dismissal from the institution was unlawful.

Hameed was dismissed from his position over allegations that he provided confidential information to an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) report written by the former government’s Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam and National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Hameed said he had signed and filed documents relating to the case in the Civil Court on Saturday (August 25).

“I have noted that the dismissal was against the constitution and the Police Act,’’ he said. ‘’We have noted many articles that were violated in the dismissal.”

Earlier this month, the Police Disciplinary Board decided to relieve Chief Superintendent ‘MC’ Mohamed Hameed and Superintendent Ibrahim Adhnan of duty.

At the same time, the Disciplinary Board also announced it was demoting Superintendent ‘Lady’ Ibrahim Manik to Chief Inspector of Police, removing the disciplinary badge on his uniform.

in June, Police arrested Hameed over allegations he had contributed to the MDP’s report, the publication of which was derided by the government as an “act of terrorism”.  The Criminal Court later extended his detention period to five days before releasing him on the grounds that it did “not believe the detention should be extended any further.”

The Criminal Court’s decision to detain Hameed was appealed by his family in the High Court, which ruled that there was no grounds to rule an extension of his detention was unlawful at the time.

Hameed’s lawyer Ismail Visham argued during the High Court hearing that his client had been subjected to discrimination.

Visham told the court that there were police officers accused of more serious crimes who had not been detained, alleging that in one instance, a senior colleague presently stood accused of attempting to rape a woman.

He further contended that the Criminal Court judge had extended Hameed’s detention period not based on police evidence, but the judge’s own view.  Visham contended that Hameed had therefore lost the right to respond to the accusations against him.


Pro-MDP Facebook group alleges police intimidation

Administrators of a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) aligned Facebook group called “Kula Yellow” have claimed they have been “threatened” by police over their page’s content.  Police officials have denied the accusations.

The Kula Yellow Facebook page, which at the time of press has just under 14,000 likes on the hugely popular social networking site, collects images, videos and other information relating to the opposition party and its work.

However, in a written statement issued today on the site, Kula Yellow’s administration team alleged that “police intelligence” had accused the page of being linked to “violence”, whilst also pledging to “crush” the site.

The alleged threat was also claimed to conclude with a warning that law enforcement officials would continue to be monitoring the page.

Kuda Yellow responded in the statement that police had no right to accuse the page or its administrators of being linked to violent crime.

‘’Arrest one of us. Two more appear. You cannot arrest an idea,’’ the statement said referring to the alleged police threats.

Kula Yellow’s Facebook page so far has more than 13,000 fans, who are said to represent mostly young Maldivians that oppose the current government and support the MDP’s demands for early elections.

However, the Maldives Police Service has denied that it was focusing on, or investigating the Kula Yellow page and its administrators.

Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said there had so far been no complaints filed against the Facebook page Kula Yellow and added that police were not investigating anything related to the page.

The police official declined to respond when asked about whether law enforcement officials were concerned over the potential role that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were playing in organising both recent peaceful protests and violent unrest between its officers and civilians.

A member of the Kula Yellow team speaking to Minivan News today on condition of anonymity claimed its members had been receiving several death threats and abusive messages over the past few weeks.

”But last night one of us received a text message, the contact number appears as ‘Police Intel’ and the message said that they are watching over Kula Yellow’s actions and they will ‘crush’ you,” the source said.

The source added that the Kula Yellow team last night met with some  senior officials of the MDP to inform the party about their concerns.

”Police officers followed us when we left home after the meeting, we noticed their actions and realized that they have been haunting us,” he claimed.

The spokesperson additionally expressed concern that the phone interview given to Minivan News, as well as other incoming and outgoing calls to his mobile were being listened to by police.