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.