Protests, roadblocks as Nasheed voluntarily attends police HQ

Former President Mohamed Nasheed attended police headquarters this afternoon, following a request made by police in a letter sent earlier this week.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Youth Wing Leader Aminath Shauna told Minivan News that while the letter was not an official police summons, it accused Nasheed of orchestrating violence against police and vandalism of police property since May 29.

The letter was signed by Deputy Head of Specialist Crime Command, Superintendent Mohamed Riyaz, said Shauna.

She added that Nasheed had decided to attend the station against the advice of both his legal team and the MDP’s National Council, over fears for his safety.

In a statement on July 31, the MDP accused President Mohamed Waheed’s administration of “demonstrating a clear pattern of abuse of power and tactics aimed at removing President Nasheed from the upcoming Presidential race.”

“The letter to summon President Nasheed is baseless and fails to state any specific charges. The letter refers indirectly to attacks on police, vandalising of police property and claims that their observations have led them to believe President Nasheed is responsible for such events,” the party stated.  The MDP added that the work of the Commonwealth-sanctioned Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) into the controversial circumstances surrounding Nasheed’s resignation was ongoing.

“Upon assessment of the facts surrounding the summons, we conclude that this summons is an attempt by the Government to thwart the progress of the Commission of National Inquiry and former President Nasheed’s participation in upcoming elections,” the party said.

“In the absence of any specific criminal charge for which he is being investigated, and since the stated purpose of the summons is merely to question President Nasheed and obtain a written statement from him, we are of the opinion that the only safe course of action will be for President Nasheed to provide a written statement without physically entering the police station.”

The party expressed “extreme concern” for Nasheed’s “personal safety”, observing that he had been “assaulted by the police on various occasions since his resignation from office, and these instances are still being investigated by the Police Integrity Commission.”

Police responded by issuing a statement “to clear the allegations of possible torture, inhumane and degrading treatment by police, raised by the MDP and supporters of Nasheed, after a police summon notice was sent [to the former president].”

“The summon notice is for the investigation of a case lodged against Nasheed for inciting violence against law enforcement official since 29 May 2012. It is suspected that the civil disorder and several physical attacks committed against police officers, and the damages to police vehicles and infrastructures are the outcome of the call by Nasheed to commit such offences,” police stated.

“Thereby, Maldives Police Service has commenced an investigation and the summon notice was issued in furtherance of it, for Nasheed to appear on 02 August 2012 at 1000 hours. However, upon a request made by Nasheed, the time on the summon notice is delayed to 1400 hours on the same day.”

“The Maldives Police Service ensures the safety and security of Nasheed from the moment of his arrival to the police headquarters, and has invited the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, Police Integrity Commission, and Maldivian Democracy Network (an NGO) to observe police actions during Nasheed’s investigation process. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and Police Integrity Commission have accepted this offer.

“[The MPS] assures concerned parties and individuals that whoever is summoned to the police would be treated in accordance with the law; with dignity, respect for human rights and within police code of conduct and code of ethics.”

Protesters gather

Political tensions on the streets of Male’ rose as word spread of the former President’s impending summons.

Protesters initially gathered outside Nasheed’s family of residence, Canaryge, to block any attempts by police to arrest the former President.

However, by early afternoon Nasheed left for police headquarters in the company of his legal team, flanked by several hundred supporters.

After Nasheed entered Republic Square, police barricaded the surrounding streets leading to the large open area.

MDP supporters quickly gathered on the street of Chaandhanee Magu, a busy road full of stores directly aimed at tourists.

Nasheed left police headquarters around 5:40pm, joining more than a thousand cheering supporters gathered at the police barricades near Seagull cafe.

Reporters from the MDP-aligned Raajje TV meanwhile claimed not to have been allowed past police barricades with other media.

Jailhouse diplomacy

Nasheed resigned on February 7 amidst a police and military mutiny, after several weeks of protests by 300-400 opposition supporters over his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

Following his resignation, the Criminal Court quickly issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest, however it was not acted upon by police after MDP supporters gathered outside his family residence.

The same day, police claimed to have discovered bottles of alcohol in the Presidential residence. That case, together with Nasheed’s detention of the judge, was sent to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s Office.

Earlier in July, the PG sent the judge case to Hulhumale’ magistrate court for trial, stating that filing it in the Criminal Court would represent a conflict of interest because it concerned the chief judge. However, the case was returned by the magistrate court, which claimed it was outside its jurisdiction.

Last week, police released a tapped phone conversation in which Nasheed was heard to call for supporters to “fight back” against police, after their dismantling of the party’s protest site at Usfasgandu on charges that the area was being used for the practice of black magic.

The arrest of Nasheed ahead of elections – early or otherwise – appears to be a ‘red line’ for many elements of the international community.

Canadian Foreign Ministry John Baird on July 27 accused the Maldivian government of seeking to arrest its political opponents and eliminate Nasheed’s candidacy in the upcoming election.

Baird, a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), noted that “the Maldives has been given the benefit of the doubt by the Commonwealth so far. Continued intimidation, illegal arrests and other authoritarian tactics by the present government may require the Commonwealth to consider a different approach, in our view.”

Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by claiming that the Canadian statement was “misleading”, and insisted that “it is the prerogative of the Prosecutor General to decide on whom and when to charge an individual of criminal offence.”

“Now that these institutions are independent, everyone, including our valuable friends in the international community, should be prepared to accept the decisions of these institutions,” the Ministry stated.