HRCM questions police conduct in raid of ex-defence minister’s apartment

The failure to videotape a midnight raid on the apartment of then-defence minister Mohamed Nazim on January 18 “raises questions about the actions of police officers,” the human rights watchdog has said.

The retired colonel was found guilty of weapons smuggling and sentenced to 11 years in prison in March after police discovered a pistol and bullets in his bedside drawer. Nazim maintains that he was framed by rogue Specialist Operations (SO) officers acting on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Following an inquiry to determine whether Nazim’s human rights were violated, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) found that the police acted in accordance with the law, but questioned the decision not to seek assistance from the military despite suspecting that Nazim possessed dangerous weapons and an improvised explosive device.

“The investigation noted matters that raise questions about the actions of police officers in searching G. Enif due to the carelessness of the police officers and because the search was not videotaped,” reads a 35-page confidential HRCM investigation report obtained by Minivan News.

However, the report concluded that police acted lawfully in arresting the former defence minister on February 10 and that his human rights were not violated under police custody.

In four recommendations to the Maldives Police Service, the commission advised making it mandatory to take video footage of police operations, involving officers of both genders in raids, and respecting human rights while searching private residences.

The police told the HRCM investigators that Nazim’s apartment was not raided based on intelligence information.

The decision was made by senior officers based on information from a credible source, according to statements from anonymised police officers.

Some police officers involved in the operation said they did not know who ordered the raid and some were unaware of the target when they prepared for the operation.

A SWAT team officer said he only knew it was Nazim’s apartment upon seeing the defence minister inside.

The police said they also found a pen drive with documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen.

The raid

The police SWAT team raided Nazim’s eighth floor apartment around 3:30am and broke down the doors of the house, the apartment, and family rooms.

The family told HRCM investigators that SO officers used obscene language and forced Nazim and his wife to kneel down while they searched the master bedroom for about 15 minutes.

A second search team then went into the room and called Nazim and his wife over.

An investigation officer showed Nazim the search warrant about 25 minutes after the SO officers broke into the apartment, the family said.

The family alleged that SO officers also broke down the door of Nazim’s daughter’s room and that her finger was injured when she was dragged out to the living room.

The family said the raid was traumatising and that Nazim’s daughter still faced difficulty sleeping.

Family members also stressed that police had not searched the rest of the apartment after finding a black bag from Nazim’s room. The SO officers took out the bag’s contents and Nazim denied that it was his.

The police did not take forensic samples, the family noted.

Nazim has meanwhile appealed his conviction at the High Court, which began hearings late last month. The appeal has been stalled after the Supreme Court transferred two judges in the five-member panel to an appellate branch in the south.

The ex-defence minister’s lawyers have highlighted several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses, discrepancies in testimony by anonymous police officers, and the police’s alleged failure to follow the law and standard procedures in the midnight raid.

Nazim maintains that the weapons were planted on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb after the pair fell-out over Adeeb’s alleged use of SWAT officers to commit criminal activities. Adeeb has denied the claims.

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Comment: Operation Anbaraa

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

A lot has been written about the music festival on the desert island of Anbaraa attended by local and international DJs, some tourists and 198 partygoers. According to the event organisers, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb and certain officials of the Yameen government allegedly approved the event in an unofficial capacity. Most of what has been said in the Dhivehi media is framed to make it appear that these young people at the music festival were engaging in an orgy of illicit activities on the island, and that the authorities acted rightly by raiding the event and arresting one female minor, 19 women and 59 men present at the festival.

Unfortunately, the susceptible majority of the Maldivian public do not see the political and unconstitutional underpinnings of these arrests, and most often than not, wholeheartedly accept such narratives. This proves beneficial for certain politicians in the Maldives, known for garnering support along ultra-nationalist and Islamist lines, as the Anbaraa incident provides an opportunity to generate just such rhetoric. Their understanding is that the youth are to be blamed for testing the limits of an increasingly conservative society. The awful truth is that people in positions of power indulging in similar behaviour, and much worse, are not subject to the same laws.

The Maldives Police Service claims it raided the island around midnight on Friday night. Detainees have described the operation as a hypocritical, aggressive and excessive display of brute force and psychological warfare. Many of the detainees claim the police used stun guns, grenades, tasers, taser guns, batons, guns and rubber bullets during this operation. Initially flares were shot and the authorities used amplifiers to announce – “you will all be killed if you don’t calm down” while charging at the partygoers. “They shot stun grenades at the centre of the dance floor in front of the main stage”, one of the detainees said. “Rubber bullets were shot in the air and a lot of people were tased with tasers and taser guns,” he continued.

Many detainees said they were all verbally abused and humiliated. Talking of the religious and cultural undertones of this operation, one female detainee said an officer yelled at her, “Are you a European?” A male detainee alleged that two officers grabbed him by the neck and called him an infidel. Another female detainee claimed she was pulled by the hair and ear, and hit on the back. Some of the male partygoers intervened when police resorted to sexualised violence against women – these men are now being detained separately from other detainees, although not in solitary confinement. Some detainees allege they were beaten and showed visible scars. Many detainees note disturbing police actions such as some officers allegedly stealing detainees’ belongings and, in the presence of some detainees, consuming illicit substances found on the island.

After the island came under police control, the detainees were rounded up and brought to the main stage. They were cuffed using plastic clips and kept kneeling down. The island did not have enough water and the Maldives Police Service did not bring any food or water with them for the detainees. When the detainees asked for water it was not provided to all, and some were humiliated for requesting for water. At this point, detainees were allegedly asked to go to sleep. On Saturday morning around 6-7am the police allegedly ordered the catering service to provide food for 198 detainees while the island was under police control. Even at this time, the Maldives’ police did not facilitate rights afforded to those accused or detained under Article 48 of the Constitution. Although police claim that the detainees were informed of their rights, the fact that these men and women were kept incommunicado for about 14 hours proves that the authorities failed to facilitate their inalienable fundamental rights to acquire legal counsel or information regarding the arrest.

Another factor that deviates from standard police practice in such cases is that, according to the detainees, belongings and persons on the island were searched on Saturday afternoon, and none of this was done in the detainees’ presence. Most detainees claim their tents were searched or dismantled while they were handcuffed. And, they claim, not only were their belongings rummaged but articles of clothing and money went missing after the police went through them. Article 161 of the 2011 Drugs Act requires police to split urine samples into two — one sample is to be tested by the Maldives Police Service while the other is to be tested by an institution stipulated by the National Drug Agency. This procedure was not followed, nor were the urine samples collected or processed according to the Urine Specimen Collection, Transportation and Testing for Illicit Drugs Regulation 2012, meaning that many detainees’ urine samples were taken after their remand hearings. Another irregularity is one that contravenes the Judicature Act – detainees were brought to the Criminal Court in Malé even though the alleged offences occurred in Vaavu Atoll. According to the male detainees, only female detainees were given lifejackets while they were being transferred to Dhoonidhoo Custodial Centre from Anbaraa.

During the remand hearings the police claimed that 119 people present at the island were released because they did not find any illicit substances on their person or belongings. This argument does not make sense as the police claimed that the entire island was a crime scene. The argument is further weakened by the fact that some of the detainees currently in custody did not have any illicit substances on their person and only have urine tests as evidence against them. Such contradictions in the claims made by the police suggest that the 119 were released because the police would not have been able to process all detainees within the specified time limit. Law requires all detainees to be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest.

These events are reminiscent of infighting among cabinet ministers during ex-dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s regime, which then spills over into the public sphere. If the Yameen government – even if in an unofficial capacity – gave assurances to the organisers of the music festival that it could go ahead, why has the Home Minister Umar Naseer vocally reacted to this incident as if to say the police were working under his orders? The feud between the current president Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom; half brother of ex-dictator and Umar Naseer; the current Home Minister, has been at the forefront since the onset of the presidential election campaign in early 2013.

Some of the detainees are also of the impression that the government may have raided the event to create a distraction from the arbitration proceedings being held at the Singapore Court of Appeal regarding the cancellation of the GMR agreement during the coup appointed presidency of Dr. Mohamed Waheed, which ended in December 2013. In early 2010, the Indian infrastructure company GMR was contracted to build Ibrahim Nasir International Airport by the Mohamed Nasheed administration, which was toppled by his deputy Dr. Waheed and Gayoom loyalists. If the infrastructure giant GMR wins the arbitration case, the Maldives’ government will be subject to approximately US$1.4 billion in compensation.

All these factors create the public perception that current government is not fully in control of the security forces due to infighting, or that the security forces can be mobilised by the current government to carry out politically motivated attacks that have very little to do with morality, crime prevention, implementing the law, or protecting the youth from illegal drugs. Neither perception creates trust or confidence towards the current regime in power, but both highlight the human rights abuse and inconsistency of the implementation of law in the Maldives.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

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Police raid Masodige, arrest 18 in drug bust

Sixteen men and two women were arrested yesterday in a drug bust with over MVR100,00 (US$6,485) in cash and 31 rubber packets containing illicit narcotics.

Police raided Galolhu Masodige with a search warrant around 9:00am based on intelligence information suggesting that drugs were being sold from the house. The special operation was conducted jointly by the drug enforcement department (DED) and police intelligence.

According to the DED officer in charge of the operation, equipment used to pack drugs was also confiscated from Masodige.

Of the 18 suspects taken into custody, police said a 22-year-old man and 50-year-old woman were actively involved in drug trafficking.

The male suspect had a criminal record for drug trafficking and gang violence, police revealed.

The other 16 suspects – aged between 22 and 58 – were believed to have been in the house to purchase drugs at the time of the raid.

A 26-year-old woman among the suspects had been convicted on multiple charges of theft in 2010 and 2011, police said.

Police claimed the 16 suspects were under the influence of drugs at the time of their arrest and that all 16 had criminal records for drug-related offences.

The Criminal Court meanwhile granted a seven-day extension of detention for all 18 suspects when they were brought before a judge at 7:00pm last night. The case is currently under investigation by the DED.

On January 20, police arrested eight Maldivians with illegal narcotics and more than MVR140,000 (US$9,000) and US$11,000 in cash from a residence in Malé.

In an interview with Minivan News in January, Home Minister Umar Naseer said that the main target of his ministry for the next five years would be curbing drug-related crimes.

Naseer said that he intended to give a high priority to enhancing the customs services in order to stop illegal drugs and other contraband from being smuggled in to the country. He also said that the police intelligence department was being expanded.

“Leaving aside abusers and peddlers, the focus of this front will be on major wholesale drug dealers. We will investigate how drugs are brought into the country, find the contacts abroad, find ways to locate and take action against those involved even if they are abroad,” he said.

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Police arrest two men and a Maldivian woman engaged in sexual activity

Police have arrested a Maldivian woman and two men engaged in sexual activity in a guest house raid on Thursday night (March 28).

A further two intoxicated individuals were arrested during the raid at Dulcet Stay Guesthouse in H. Lhareethige, local media reported.

According to police, three out of the five people had been arrested while “engaged” in sexual activity, and that the men involved had told police that the woman “did it for money”.

Local media reported that two Maldivians, a woman and a man were also arrested for using drugs in another room in the guesthouse.

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Four arrested in guesthouse raid on charges of prostitution

Four people were arrested in a guesthouse raid by police on Tuesday night (March 19) as part of an ongoing operation to curb prostitution in Male’.

The latest arrests take place just one week after police raided ‘Roma Beauty and Wellness Centre’ – a beauty salon in Male’ – and arrested 10 individuals on charges of prostitution.

Local media reported that the Tuesday night raid took place at a local guesthouse called ‘Relax @ Kangaroo Inn’ located on Dhiggaamaage in the Heniveru ward of Male’.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef said today (March 20) that two Maldivian men and two Thai women were arrested on Tuesday night around 8:30pm in an “intelligence-led operation”.

“Police received an arrest warrant before raiding one of the rooms within the guesthouse, where the suspects were found naked and engaged in sexual activity.

“Following a search of the room, a number of [sex] toys and over MVR 4000 (US$260) were found by police,” Haneef told Minivan News.

Refuting a report in SunOnline that claimed the Relax @ Kangaroo Inn guesthouse was being run as a brothel, Haneef stated: “We never made a comment to suggest that claim.”

Manager of Relax @ Kangaroo Inn Mohamed Hamid confirmed to Minivan News today that the premises had been raided by police.

“We had no idea that the two men had been with prostitutes at the guest house. The police just came, took them outside and then they were gone,” he added.

Last week, four Maldivians, four Thai women and two Bangladeshi men were arrested in the beauty salon raid.

Police claimed that when police raided the salon four of the 10 people inside the premises were naked and involved in sexual activities.

When police searched the premises of Roma Beauty and Wellness Centre they discovered MVR13,000 (US$845) and “tools used for sexual activities”.

Police said the office of Roma Beauty and Wellness Centre was also searched, where police discovered “other items’’ in connection with the case.

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Fresh protests erupt after police dismantle MDP camp at Usfasgandu

Police cracked down on a fresh wave of demonstrations that erupted in Male’ on Tuesday, after police raided the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest camp ‘Usfasgandu’ and later began dismantling it.

The demonstrations were sparked following a MDP National Council meeting held right next to the police barricades near the swimming tracks. The clustered meeting of 43 members of the council took the stand that “enough was enough” and that party should take  to the streets to get their constitutional rights.

Immediately, 400 protesters gathered in the area to challenge the legitimacy of police and demand the return of Usfasgandu, saying that they had not done anything violent. Minivan News observed objects thrown at police barricades, which triggered a brutal police crackdown leading to arrests and injuries.

Minivan News observed one protester sustain a head injury after he was hit in the head by a police baton, and was taken to the hospital in a pickup truck refueling at the nearby petrol shed.

Minivan News also observed a cameraman from local TV station Raajje TV being pepper-sprayed by police while he was attempting to film police arresting a protester.

The confrontations between the police and the protesters continued up until around 6:45pm whereupon the protesters made several attempts to cross the police barricades towards Usfasgandu. The frustrated protesters threw two police barricades into the swimming tracks.

At around 8:45 pm the protesters left the area and headed towards the junction of Majeedhee Magu and Chaandhanee Magu in the centre of Male’.

Protesters gathered in the intersection calling for an end to police brutality and for the resignation of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and senior officials of the government, including Home Minister Mohamed Jameel and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, claiming that that the government came to power by a coup d’état. The protesters also called for early elections.

Soon after the protesters gathered, a lorry arrived with a sound system and participants began chanting over a mega phone.

The protesters said they had gathered in the area because the police had taken over their protest camp at Usfasgandu, and called on police to leave the camp.

At about 10:00pm, two vehicles containing police in riot gear arrived at the protesting area and began dispersing the crowd, which lead to heated confrontations between the police and the protesters. The police resorted to tear gas and pepper spray, and more protesters were arrested.

During the confrontations, the window of a shop in Majeedhee Magu was smashed after it was hit by an by an object thrown during the confrontations.

During the crackdown, police were seen using pepper spray on several bystanders who were standing in front of their houses on Majeedhee Magu who had not taken part in the protest.

At about 11:30pm, an injured young protester was taken into a nearby house, and then to hospital.

At the same time, some protesters again began gathering near the swimming track and the petrol sheds on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, where the protests earlier began.

Earlier at about 9:30 pm, the Civil Court issued a temporary injunction ordering the police and the military to stop dismantling the protest camp at Usfasgandu. The Criminal Court had earlier issued police only a search warrant.

The police let two protesters inside the police barricades near Usfasgandu after they produced a copy of the court order.

At about 12:10am, a group of pro-government supporters arrived and confronted the protesters, leading to heated arguments.

The protests ended at about 12:40am in the morning. Police revealed that 56 arrests had been made during the clashes, out of which two had been released at time of press. Those arrested included MDP MP and Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy, the wife of former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, and two MDP councilors.

Confronted on twitter about the arrest of Naseem’s wife, President Mohamed Waheed tweeted back: “I am sorry to hear about Mana. I did all I can to expedite her release.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Police Media Official Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that a total of 56 protesters were arrested. He confirmed that out of the 56 arrestees, two had been released.

During the skirmishes, Minivan News observed a 17 year-old boy being arrested by police. Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that police had no record of the arrest of a minor.

“Even though it is not on our records, there may have been an arrest made, but he was not taken into custody,” said Haneef.

Minivan News understands the boy’s name is Hamdhaan Mohamed, who is at time of press was summoned to Criminal Court for extension of his detention period.

When Minivan News asked about the pepper spraying of Raajje TV Journalist, Haneef said that police would not have done it deliberately, and the cameraman may have been the unfortunate recipient of a pepper spraying that targeted at protesters.

“The police during such a time would not be able to distinguish between innocent observers and violent protesters. So there are chances that even someone who was observing might get pepper sprayed,” he explained.

“That is why we issue a warning before we begin dismantling the crowds. No one is supposed to stay after the warning is issued,” he added.

A photo of the incident on Sun Online appeared to show the cameraman was wearing a media pass and was directly targeted with the spray. Haneef maintained that it was difficult to identify a person.

“How can we see whether he had a MDP pass or DRP pass or a DhiTV pass?” he questioned.

He maintained that he was certain that the “boys” would not do such a thing deliberately, but he said if such a thing had happened, there was a mechanism to file a complaint.

“I am not saying such a thing happened but if it did, the person can lodge a complaint with Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), the Police Intergrity Commission or even us, we would then look into it,” he added.

Not a good sign: MDP

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor alleged that the police were cooperating with “thugs from the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM)”, accusing them of infiltrating the peaceful protests to incite violent responses from the police.

“We have experienced all this in 2005, we have dealt with this mentality before, but now a large section of the population is aware of their rights and the stage is huge,” he warned.

“Tensions are high because of frustrations around the party talks and the commission of national inquiry, and that the administration is fragmented and not in control – this could be headed to a fist fight,” he added.

Ghafoor claimed in addition that a number of people in the national council had decided that they would no longer recognise the authority of the police as they had mutinied, and that some people had walked through the barricades.

“Lots of people were very angry [over the police actions],” he remarked.

He said that the police were “not acting like police”.

“The institution has broken down so much that people are having trouble believing there are innocent police out there on the street. Police are acting with impunity and clearly breaking the law, by sealing off the Usfasgandu area,” he said.

“People are talking about standing up to police and this is not a good sign.”

A female protester told Minivan News that the actions of the police were “animalistic” and “barbarian”.

“They were like animals at that time. Brutality has gone way out of control. They would stay at a distance and then they would barge in like barbarians and take away those that even were not a part of the protests,” she said.

The protester alleged that police had pre-identified political targets and sought to arrest them in the chaos.

Police crackdown on demonstrators near the Usfasgandu barricades:

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