Tension surges in Male’ as police arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed

Photo courtesy Jaawid Naseem, Jade Photography

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has been arrested by police ahead of his trial hearing at Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, scheduled for 4:00pm tomorrow (March 6).

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that Nasheed had been arrested and taken into police custody at 1:30pm today (March 5).

“We have received the order. Police have taken Nasheed into custody in order to produce him at Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court 16 hours from now,” Haneef told Minivan News.

Photos of the arrest showed several dozen police wearing balaclavas and black riot gear, several armed with rubber bullet guns, entering Nasheed’s family home in Male’ and emerging with the former president.

Shortly after the arrest, Minivan News observed President Mohamed Waheed’s brother Ali Waheed forced off his motorcycle by several dozen angry demonstrators on the main road Majeedee Magu, at the turnoff to Nasheed’s house. A second, larger group pulled Ali Waheed to safety, abandoning his motorcycle. The first group then attacked a parked military vehicle, smashing a window.

A group of people including Nasheed’s representative on the Commission of National Inquiry, Ahmed ‘Gaha’ Saeed, blocked the road, trying to calm the more violent protesters. One man had laid down in the middle of the street as part of a silent protest.
“People have waited a year since the coup and are very angry and unlikely to act reasonably. They could bring Male’ to a standstill,” Saeed said.
Former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, arriving at the scene, said “There is no plan. People are agitated, they are angry. There is no plan, there is just outrage.”

Nasheed’s latest trial hearing follows his exit from the Indian High Commission last month, after the Maldivian and Indian government came to an alleged “understanding” that he would be able to conduct a peaceful campaign and participate in an inclusive election.

The former president told Indian media on Sunday (March 3) that while he had ended his 11-day stay in the Indian High Commission, he was still not entirely free and feared an arrest warrant would be issued against him any day soon.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor confirmed to Minivan News that there were Special Operation (SO) officers outside Nasheed’s residence earlier today prior to his arrest.

“He has been taken away to Dhoonidhoo [prison], we are still in a state of shock,” Hamid said.

The former President sought refuge inside the High Commission building on February 13 after Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court ordered police to produce Nasheed at his trial hearing scheduled for later that day.

Nasheed has maintained that the charges against him – of detaining the Chief Criminal Court judge during his final days in office – are a politically-motivated effort to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.

Nasheed spent 11 days inside the commission building before making an unannounced exit on February 23.

Following his exit from the High Commission, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court issued a travel ban to Nasheed, preventing him from leaving the country.


2:30pm: Shortly after Nasheed’s arrest, Minivan News observed President Mohamed Waheed’s brother Ali Waheed being pulled off his motorcycle by several dozen angry demonstrators on the main road Majeedee Magu. A second, larger group pulled Ali Waheed to safety, abandoning his motorcycle. The first group then attacked a military vehicle, smashing a window as it tried to move past the group.

3:00pm: More people are arriving outside the City Council Building near the demonstration, nearing a hundred people or so in size. Shops in the vicinity are closed, and one man is lying down in the middle of the road, stepped over by the occasional pedestrian. People on motorcycles are stopping to look, and turning around to find another route.

3:10pm: A separate group of two dozen men are turning away traffic at the next intersection, in an apparent attempt to shut down Male’s main road. No sign of police presence yet. A man passes through the blockade with a young girl on a motorcycle, to shouts of “baghee” (traitor).

3:12pm: Nasheed’s brother Dr Nashid tweets: – “given all clear to go to Dhoonidhoo [detention centre]. Waiting for Laila [Nasheed’s wife]”. In a second tweet, he adds that Nasheed’s bodyguards “were changed this morning.”

3:28pm: President Waheed tweeted: “Assaulting my brother Ali Waheed will not help Nasheed escape justice.”

3:30pm: A pickup truck is circling Male’ calling on people to come out on the streets. Light rain earlier has since cleared up.

3:37pm: Photos circulating on social media appear to show one of Nasheed’s bodyguard being restrained by police as the former President was escorted outside his family home.

3:39pm: Approximate 30 police have arrived at the scene. Demonstators threw plastic bottles at officers, who subsequently departed after detaining former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam. The crowd numbers around 200 people.

3:42pm: SunOnline reports that protesters on Majeedhee Magu have pushed off a uniformed police officer from his motorcycle as he was driving through the protesters. The policeman abandoned his motorcycle and left on foot when the crowd moved to attack him, Sun reports.

3:44pm: Abbas Faiz, South Asia Specialist for Amnesty International tweets: Amnesty investigating concerns that former prez Nasheed arrest politically motivated and his safety uncertain.

3:46pm: A masked man climbed up the posts on which CCTV cameras are mounted on the junction of Majeedhee Magu and Alikilegefaanu Magu and spray-painted the camera, reports Sun Online.

4:01pm: A video of Nasheed outside his house has emerged on DhiTV, titled ‘Anni’s Quarrel’. In the video, a Special Operations police officer states: “We will accompany you there.” Nasheed: “Well, let’s go then. I won’t go in that way. I am doing what is good for you… I will know better than you. Let’s go already.” [Former Foreign Minister] Naseem: “He is going, isn’t he? What is wrong with you baaghees (traitors)?” “Nasheed: Sigh. What more can I say? Even I would know these laws and responsibilities. For God’s sake, let’s just go. Let’s go quickly. Let’s just go quickly.”

4:03pm: The Maldivian Democratic Party has issued a statement condemning the arrest:

President Nasheed was arrested while walking down the street in Male’ at approximately 13:45 local time today. He was apprehended by numerous armed and masked police officers, who did not identify themselves, nor produce an arrest warrant or court summons. Nasheed’s lawyers were not informed of the arrest, or of any court summons.

President Nasheed was taken to Dhoonidhoo Island detention centre – the facility in which he was tortured during the former regime of Maumoon Gayoom.

Commenting on the arrest, the MDP’s international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said: “Once again Dr Waheed has proven that he can’t be trusted to hold a free and fair election – despite his assurances to the international community.

“Nasheed was supposed to be on an election campaign trip but instead he is languishing in jail.

“This arrest comes just days after the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, said the judges overseeing President Nasheed’s case had been appointed “arbitrarily”.

“Dr Waheed, in collusion with his friends in the judiciary, is pulling out all the stops to prevent President Nasheed competing in the elections.”

The UN Special Rapporteur also said that the Judicial Services Commission, which established the court trying President Nasheed, was “politicised” and subject to “external influence”.

4:07pm: The Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has issued a statement condemning an attack on Sun journalist and a VTV cameraman:

Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) strongly condemns the violent attacks carried out against a journalist and a cameraman while covering the arrest of former President Nasheed today.

The journalist from sun.mv was attacked and tore his shirt and snatched his mobile phone while VTV cameraman was attacked and snatched his video tape in his camera. Both the incidents was happened near former president Nasheeds residence. We strongly call on all parties to allow media to do its duty without any harrasements. And also call on all responsible authorities to investigate the above incidents and call on media regulatory authorities to not to allow ‘hate speech’ on media.

4:11pm: President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told Minvan News: “I have already told Indian and local media that the Maldives government has made no deal with the Indian government over Nasheed’s exit from the Indian High Commission. It was never said there would be a delay in Nasheed’s trial hearing, or his court case or any other matter involving him.”

“[The government] cannot make any delay or decision based on legal matters because it is not our business, it is the judiciary’s decision,” Masood said.

Asked if Nasheed’s arrest would harm relations between Maldives and India, Masood said: “If we had made a deal and broken it, then that would be an issue. But we have not made any deal, and there has been no deal between India and the Maldives regarding Nasheed’s case. There was no understanding between the respective governments. If Nasheed thought there was an understanding, it must have been something he understood. There is no dealing between us and the judiciary on Nasheed’s judgement, It is totally up to the judiciary, we will have have no interference with the court. I did not know that the court would order police to summon Nasheed today.”

4:21pm: Scuffles are breaking out between protesters and passerbys they deem to be “baghees” (traitors). One woman clung to a man screaming as the crowd surrounded them. “There is hatred here,” said one protester. “He was asking for it. He could see there was a [blockade] but came through anyway.”

The attitude of the crowd is divided between the angry and those appealing for calm. Around 20 riot police have arrived with shields.

4:30pm: Police reinforcements have arrived at an nearby intersection, heckled by the crowd of 200 demonstrators blocking the road.

4:31pm: A middle-aged women was arrested after heckling and singing songs, and was dancing in the back of the police truck. A further five or so individuals have been arrested.

4:36pm: Police have brought the area under control and are now directing traffic.

5:30pm: The US Embassy in Colombo has issued a statement:

The United States is increasingly concerned about ongoing events in Malé. We understand that both the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission are monitoring the situation, and that the Human Rights Commission has requested access to Former President Nasheed.  We urge all sides to remain calm, reject the use of violence, and avoid rhetoric that could increase tensions. Former President Nasheed must be accorded due process under the law regarding his pending court cases.

We urge that the Presidential elections scheduled for September 7, 2013 be free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive. The integrity of and public confidence in the Maldivian electoral process must be maintained. Accordingly, we note that all parties participating in these elections should be able to put forward the candidate of their choice. We also call upon the Government of the Maldives to implement all the recommendations of the Commission of National Inquiry (CONI) report, including the recommendations related to judicial and governmental reforms.  We continue to urge all parties to chart a way forward that strengthens Maldivian democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

5:30pm: Sun Online reports that protesters have rolled over a Redwave van (owned by shop owner Eydhafushi MP Ahmed Saleem) near Male’ City Council. The van was broken into, milk packets were taken and subsequently distributed to protesters.

5:51pm: British entrepeneur Richard Branson has tweeted on the Nasheed arrest: “Maldives former president Nasheed arrested, in court tomorrow. Hope he is treated with respect & fairness”.

6:31pm: Local media has reported that police have once again left Majeedee Magu.

7:10pm: Some 150 demonstrators remain on Majeedee Magu, situated around 20 metres from the Male’ City Council building. No police presence is witnessed by Minivan News at the current time, although traffic is still being diverted as a result of the makeshift blockade.

8:52pm: At a press conference held this evening, the Maldives Police Service have said that a total of 47 people were arrested so far during demonstrations today on Majeedee Magu.  Of those arrested 31 were male, 16 females were also detained.  Among those arrested was MDP MP Ahmed Easa, who authorities said was later released.


Government asks India to hand over Nasheed, as MDP slam arrest warrant from “kangaroo court”

The Maldivian Foreign Ministry has asked the Indian High Commission to hand former President Mohamed Nasheed to police ahead of his trial on Wednesday.

Police requested the Foreign Ministry to approach the High Commission on Tuesday, after the Hulhumale Magistrate Court ordered them to produce Nasheed for his court hearing at 4:00pm on February 20.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad said “I wouldn’t call it an arrest warrant. It’s a court order for police to summon him to court.”

Asked whether this order would involve police using force to produce Nasheed, Masood stated that “I’m not a policeman but presumably they will ask him to come with them, and if he does not they will put him in a police vehicle. The actual strategy is a police function. I hope they don’t do anything excessive.”

“As far as the police are concerned, we will make sure they do not break the diplomatic rights of the embassy. Having said that, police may not have to use force to take him out,” he said.

“Police have asked the foreign ministry to advise the high commission that they have a warrant to present Nasheed in court. If [Indian High Commissioner] Mr Mulay does not budge, they will report back and it ends there,” Masood said.

Nasheed would be free again after Wednesday 4:00pm when the current warrant would expire, “until another warrant is issued”, he added.

The High Court also on Tuesday ordered the Foreign Ministry deliver a court order to Nasheed, concerning an appeal hearing of the first – now expired – arrest warrant for the February 13 hearing. The High Court appeal is scheduled for 1:00pm on Wednesday, three hours before his second hearing.

Nasheed sought refuge in the High Commission – which is protected diplomatic territory under the Vienna Convention – after the court earlier issued a warrant for his arrest and presentation in court on February 13. The scheduled hearing was canceled in his absence and the warrant expired.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) issued a statement slamming the arrest warrant issued by the “kangaroo court”.

“The MDP believes that the Hulhumale Magistrate Court is, de facto, controlled by Dr Waheed and his allies, and that the sole purpose of the court case against President Nasheed is to prevent his candidature in the upcoming presidential elections,” the party said.

“Waheed, in collusion with allies in the judiciary, has established a kangaroo court to convict President Nasheed. The Judicial Services Commission that set up the court comprises Waheed’s appointees as well as Nasheed’s political rivals, including those running for president. Waheed hides behind so-called judicial independence but his fingerprints are all over this trial,” said MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“India, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the Commonwealth have all called for free and fair elections in which all candidates are freely permitted to stand. Waheed is defying the world by continuing his political persecution of President Nasheed,” he said.

The President’s Office Human Rights Ambassador Ahmed Ibrahim “Sandhaanu” Didi told a press conference yesterday that the MDP “shouldn’t be allowed to exist” as it was an “unlawful organisation which commits terrorist activities”, and called on the Elections Commission to dissolve it.

Indian position

The Indian High Commission has so far made no indication that it intends to hand over Nasheed to the Maldivian police ahead of his scheduled trial.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Shri Salman Khurshid said on Monday that the former President “is a guest in the mission. He came and we extended courtesies and that’s it. This was explained to the [Maldives] foreign minister. We are not taking sides with anyone. We are not engaged or involved in the internal politics,” he said.

“As friends of the Maldives, our only expectation, and this is the expectation of the democratic world, is that elections which have been announced will hopefully be free and fair. As friends we obviously have advised anything that detracts from the perception of free fair elections is obviously not good for Maldives,” Khurshid said.

“The people of the Maldives have India’s support. Whoever the people of the Maldives elect will have India’s support. The Maldives can’t change its history. The Maldives cannot deny the history of somebody who was President of Maldives. And we cannot deny the Maldives’ present by saying that whatever there is at present is not to our liking. It’s the people of Maldives who decide and whoever they decide as their elected leadership, we will respect,” he added.

Meanwhile, the website of the Indian High Commission in the Maldives was hacked and a message displayed stating “Give us Nasheed or we kick the embassy!”

High Commission officials confirmed the website had been targeted twice in the past week, but was quickly repaired.

Ten arrested as protests continue

Demonstrations continued last night in the captial Male’, with a crowd of almost 1000 people beginning a march around the city from near the tsunami monument.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said ten people were arrested, including one minor, for throwing objects such as glass bottles at police.

No police were injured, and no force or pepper-spray was used to control the crowds of 250-500 people at the barricades, Haneef said.

Police have meanwhile released a video of demonstrators throwing objects at police lines during the recent protests, and requested public assistance in identifying the five people highlighted.

“Police request public assistance in identifying the five individuals marked in the video who have committed various felonies which have caused varying degrees of property damage and injured officers and media personnel,” police said in a statement.

“Anyone with any information about the identity or the whereabouts of these five individuals, please contact the Maldives Police Service Hotline at 3322111 or the Criminal Investigation Department at 9631696,” the statement added.



Nasheed gives India a second chance to correct diplomacy: Firstpost

Having played a stupendously bad hand in the diplomatic game with Maldives a year ago, when former President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in a coup, India has been given a rare second chance to get its priorities right in the Indian Ocean island, writes Venky Vembu for India’s Firstpost publication.

On Wednesday, Nasheed sauntered into the Indian High Commission in Male and sought refuge there from imminent detention by the police. An arrest warrant had been issued in his name for failing to appear before a local court in connection with events that preceded the coup that displaced him in 2012.

India has done right by giving Nasheed shelter, even at the risk of incurring the wrath of the government of President Mohammed Waheed, which is now preparing to use “non-lethal chemical agents” to disperse Nasheed’s supporters outside the Indian High Commission. Police are gathered in force outside the Indian High Commission, waiting to nab Nasheed, should he step out.

The situation is very volatile, and although the court appears to have rescinded the requirement for Nasheed to appear before it, it seems clear that the government is hell-bent on ensuring that Nasheed, who retains immense mass popularity even a year after his ouster, does not get to contest the upcoming presidential election, scheduled for 7 September.

On Wednesday, a statement issued by India’s external affairs ministry also signaled its support for Nasheed’s candidacy in the election, and urged the Maldivian government not to disqualify candidates – as that would impinge on perceptions of how free and fair the elections are. The Maldivian government has responded petulantly, urging India to respect Maldives’ judiciary and not interfere in internal political matters. The gloves, it appears, are coming off.

All these expressions of Indian solidarity with Nasheed come as a sharp contrast to the events of a year ago, when India ended up backing the wrong horse. It gave tacit backing to Mohammed Waheed, the coup leader, who replaced Nasheed, the island’s first democratically elected leader.

Read more


India backs inclusive elections, as former President takes refuge in High Commission

The Indian government has confirmed that former President Mohamed Nasheed has requested India’s assistance after police sought to arrest him and present him to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court this afternoon.

Nasheed had previously missed a court hearing scheduled for February 10, which was cancelled in his absence. His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain that the charges – based on his detaining Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during his final days in office – are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.

Rumours of Nasheed’s imminent arrest began to circulate on Tuesday (February 12) ahead of a scheduled hearing at 4:00pm the following day, prompting his supporters to camp in the narrow alley outside his family home in Male’.

By this morning, Nasheed entered the Indian High Commission, purportedly to “seek advice” from High Commissioner D M Mulay.

Shortly after 1:00pm, riot police blocked off the street outside the High Commission, as Nasheed’s supporters began to gather at the barricades.

The former President subsequently tweeted: “Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives.”

“As a close and friendly neighbour, India has expressed concern over the ongoing political instability in Maldives and called upon the government and all political parties to adhere strictly to democratic principles and the rule of law, thereby paving the way for free, fair, credible and inclusive elections,” the Indian Government said in a statement this evening.

“Following the arrest warrant issued against him by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, the former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who is a candidate for the Presidential elections in Maldives scheduled for September 2013, is in the Indian High Commission and has sought India’s assistance. We are in touch with the relevant Maldivian authorities to resolve the situation,” the statement added.

“Now that the President of the Election Commission of Maldives has announced that Presidential elections would be held on 7 September 2013, it is necessary that the Presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance. Prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives.”

India’s Ministry of External Affairs concluded its statement by contending it was “not in the interest” of the Maldives or the region to prevent any candidate from contesting the country’s presidential elections later this year.

“India would call upon the government and all political parties in Maldives to avoid any actions that would vitiate the political atmosphere in the Maldives,” its statement read.

In a tweet this afternoon, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel implied that India was  meddling in the Maldives’ internal affairs: “What’s happening now gives us an indication of the extent and level of interest some countries prepared to take in our internal matters,” he said.

“I would strongly urge everyone to let our institutions deal with the challenges, allow Maldives to uphold rule of law,” he tweeted.

The Home Minister – also formerly Justice Minister during the Maldives’ 30 year autocracy – recently urged the courts “to conclude the case against Nasheed before the approaching presidential elections, in the interests of the nation and to maintain peace in it.”

“Every single day that goes by without the case being concluded contributes to creating doubt in the Maldivian people’s minds about the judiciary,” the home minister stated at the time.

The Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement today in response to media reports that Nasheed had “sought refuge” in the High Commission, following the court’s issuing of an arrest warrant.

“Upon contacting, the High Commission of India confirmed President Nasheed’s presence at the Chancery and informed that he was present there for a meeting with the High Commissioner,” read the statement.

“The Ministry confirms that the government of Maldives will uphold and respect its obligations under international law with regard to diplomatic immunities and privileges granted to resident diplomatic missions. The Government is confident that all parties concerned, including the High Commission of India, will respect the laws of the Maldives and judicial independence as prescribed in the Constitution.”

Protests building

Minivan News observed crowds growing around the barricades at Sosun Magu. Shortly after 6:00pm, the crowd of around 700 people was charged and scattered by a group of 30 Special Operations officers in riot gear.

Former Minister of Housing and Environment in Nasheed’s government, Mohamed Aslam, has confirmed that the MDP’s National Council had today approved “direct action” against the government, notably a campaign of widespread civil disobedience.

“The whole situation is very fluid right now. Nothing will be ruled out,” he said. “What we are demanding is a transitional government, as well as free and fair elections that would include [former President] Nasheed.”

Aslam said that following a march of more than 10,000 in the capital on Friday (February 8 ) showed Nasheed had widespread popular support for contesting the elections.

Reports on social media meanwhile suggested that Nasheed’s luggage was being transferred to the Indian High Commission at time of press.

Disputed court case

Nasheed and his legal team have disputed both the charges against him, and the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court. The latter was created by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). Nasheed’s lawyers have argued therefore that the court has no legal or constitutional authority.

Nasheed’s team raised these points in the first hearing of the case, stalling the process with a run of appeals and assorted injunctions.

Eventually the JSC asked the seven-member Supreme Court bench to rule on the court’s legitimacy, which it did in December 2012.  The court’s legitimacy was approved by four judges to three.

Former Attorney General Husnu al Suood observed at the time that Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed Abdulla should not have participated in the vote as he was also the President of the JSC, which therefore amounted to “presumption of bias”.

Meanwhile, the JSC appointed a three-member panel of judges to oversee the trial of the former president.

The Commission’s members include two of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – Deputy of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) – and Gasim Ibrahim, a resort tycoon, media owner, MP and leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP), also a member of the governing coalition.

Numerous international organisations and reports have challenged the political independence of the JSC and the judiciary.

One recent report produced by local NGO the Raajje Foundation and supported by the UNDP and the US State Department, noted that the JSC’s mission under the 2008 constitution to ensure the new judiciary was was clean, competent, and protected from political influence, “has sadly gone unfulfilled.”

“The courts have essentially been able to capture the JSC so as to ensure that the old judiciary remained in place under the new constitutional order,” the report noted, predicting that the most likely scenario for the Maldives’ future was a cycle of failed governments.

Minivan News will continue live updates on the unfolding situation here