Women face charges over airport protest

State prosecutors are preparing to charge 14 women and one man who protested at Male’s international airport earlier last month over the arrest and trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Police have sent the cases to the prosecutor general’s office to send them to trial, an official confirmed to Minivan News.

Another source confirmed that 15 cases were sent to the prosecutor general’s office, while a total of 90 protest-related cases have been sent to the state prosecutor.

Some 14 women and one man were arrested on March 5 while protesting at the airport with posters calling for Nasheed’s release. The protest was co-ordinated by the women’s wing of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The opposition has been holding nightly street protests over Nasheed’s trial, but it is rare for demonstrations to take place at the airport in view of international tourists.

A police spokesperson at the time said the Freedom of Assembly Act bars protests at airports.

Nasheed has since been sentenced to 13 years of prison over terrorism charges, in a trial which was deemed unfair by the UN and Amnesty International.

Among those arrested were Malé City deputy-mayor Shifa Mohamed and MDP women’s wing vice-president Shaneez “Thanie” Saeed.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Shifa said she is yet to be officially informed of the charges, but have heard rumors about it in the media.

“We are already getting punished for protesting. [We] are barred from protesting for 60 days. If they accuse us again we are getting punished for the same crime twice,” Shifa said.

All of those arrested at the airport were released by the criminal court at their remand hearing on the condition they do not participate in further protests for 60 days.

The opposition has argued that the release of those arrested at protests on these conditions violates their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Shifa accused the criminal court of misconduct and bias in their treatment of those arrested at protests.

The remand trial of those arrested at the airport was headed by Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf – one of the three-judge panel who sentenced Nasheed to 13 years.

The deputy mayor said that Bari warned them he would sentence them to two months in detention if they participate in more protests.

“I see this as threat to scare us, and something done to selectively eliminate certain individuals,” Shifa said.

In another high-profile case, MP Ahmed Mahloof, formerly of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, was arrested at a protest last week and detained for five days.

When his detention ended, the criminal court handed him a further five days of house arrest after he refused the court’s condition to stay away from protests for 60 days.

Similarly, MDP MP Ismail Fayyaz was given 15 days’ detention after he refused to accept release under the same conditions.