Physical abuse, verbal harassment, and the excessive use of weapons have been reported by some of those detained following the police raids on the Anbaraa music festival last weekend.
“They used a lot of weapons- stun grenades and tazers, pretty excessive force when you’re raiding,” a reliable source told Minivan News.
Other attendees suggested police had threatened both physical torture and sexual violence. All Maldivian nationals interviewed for this article chose to remain anonymous.
Festival attendee Brandon Ingram – a Sri Lankan national – described the authorities as arriving “in a wave of terror, shooting their guns and shouting their violence in Dhivehi.”
The two day music festival – attended by 198 people, including international DJs – was raided by police at 12:00am on Saturday (April 19), with the aim of shutting down the event.
A total of 79 people were arrested from the uninhabited island in Vaavu atoll, 19 of whom have been released to house arrest, while the remaining are being held at the Dhoonidhoo detention facility.
“They shot flares and one of them [an eyewitness] told me stun grenades were shot in centre of dance floor. Stun grenades are meant for dispersing large crowds – they shouldn’t be shooting at people,” stated an authority investigating the case.
Ingram’s recently published testimony of the raid describes gunfire and lasers, associated with stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Another person present at the festival alleged that, once they were handcuffed, police refused to give them water, had tightened the cuffs when they complained of swollen wrists, and refused to let them go to the toilet.
After a body search at around 1am, the police changed the cuffs to the front and the detainees fell asleep leaning on one another.
The tents and belongings were checked at around midday the following day, the source continued. The cuffs were only taken off after they had picked the 79 to be arrested – meaning they were handcuffed for 13 to 14 hours.
In addition, many of the detainees have stated that police verbally threatened them. One attendee alleged that police told people, “if they didn’t calm down they would all be killed.”
“[Police] verbally abused all of them, harassed them, some of the girls – especially the girls – I heard a lot, one of them [police] said they were going to shove their batons up them.”
“One girl resisting arrest, they hit her from behind and manhandled her, another girl they pulled by the hair and shoved into the sand. It was mostly toward people who were resisting arrest,” stated a source who is investigating the arrests.
According to another eyewitness at the festival, while they were lying on the ground, one girl reportedly heard a policeman say, “why don’t we pour petrol on them and set them on fire, who’d know?”.
Additionally, Ingram recalled the “those authoritative looks of accomplishment and farcical displays of power.”
“They said to us, with conviction, ‘heroine, yea, that’s whatever… but alcohol and LSD, very dangerous.’ They pointed at the girls who were in shorts and tank tops and said: ‘these girls are naked in public, that is against law.'”
“They went on to say – ‘on resort anyone can do whatever they want, on normal island, you cannot.’ They also said – ‘Maldivian boys and girls want to have fun, they can go to other countries, other places, not here’.”
However, Ingram’s account claimed that the treatment by the police was not malevolent.
“They were not unkind to us – in fact they were almost as nice as our Maldivian friends,” he observed.
After the raid, police confirmed with the media that out of the 198 searched, the 79 arrested either tested positive for drugs, or had drugs in their possession.
Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh noted at a press briefing that the 79 persons taken into custody were arrested either with drugs in their possession or police suspected they were under the influence of drugs.
While the remaining 119 were released without charge, Satheeh revealed that none of them had been tested for drug use.
“The people who were let go were supposedly the people who they didn’t find anything on them. The urine test were taken much later,” confirmed a source investigating the arrests.
At the time of the arrests, the only tests the police carried out were a breathalyser test, with only two people testing positive for this, they continued.
Contrary to police reports, “they didn’t do urine tests for everyone,” revealed the source, adding that this was a key point that could stand in the detainees favour.
The Police Integrity Commission declined to comment on the events when contacted by Minivan News today, saying they were not yet investigating the case.