“The authorities arrived in a wave of terror”, says eyewitnesses of Anbaraa arrests

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.

Verbal Abuse

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.

Drug tests

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.

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Police defend Anbaraa arrests as MDP alleges breach of constitutional rights

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has denied allegations by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that constitutional rights and procedures were violated in the arrest of 79 youth last weekend from a music festival in an uninhabited island.

In a press release issued in response to a statement yesterday by the MDP’s rights committee, police insisted that all the suspects taken into custody from Vaavu Anbaraa were informed of their constitutional rights as well as the reason for the arrest.

“In addition, they were informed in writing of the reason for their detention in accordance with the law, and they were told that they had the right to legal counsel,” the press release read.

It added that all suspects detained from Anbaraa were brought before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest. Police also noted that the island was raided with a court order.

The MDP’s rights committee however contended that procedures specified in the constitution for arrest or detention – such as informing suspects of the reasons in writing within 24 hours, providing access to legal counsel, and presenting suspects before a judge within 24 hours for a remand hearing – were breached by the police.

Moreover, the committee alleged that police did not act in accordance with regulations governing the exercise of law enforcement powers concerning arrest and detention.

The rights committee suggested that it was “absolutely necessary” to ensure that law enforcement efforts are focused on citizens and the community while respecting human rights and democratic principles.

“While police powers and discretion is afforded within specifically determined parameters of the law, we remind the Home Minister of the Maldives at this juncture that police powers and discretion cannot be used outside those parameters,” the MDP statement read.

The police statement however stated that the MPS “assures the beloved citizens of Maldives that no actions that could violate human rights or demean human dignity were committed in the operation conducted in V. Anbaraa.”

The press release went on to address the MDP’s statement, contending that it was “misleading” and expressed in a manner that “encourages youth to commit crimes”.

Police further argued that the opposition party’s statement could confuse the public concerning “the principles and rules of the democracy that Maldivians are seeing today.”

Police also reminded the MDP that actions encouraging drug use or trafficking were prohibited by article 128 of the Drugs Act.

The police statement concluded with an appeal to all parties to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to “safeguard youth and this society from the danger of drugs” and refrain from actions that could cause loss of public confidence in the MPS.

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All 79 suspects arrested from Anbaraa festival tested positive for drugs, police reveal

All 79 suspects taken into police custody from the island of Anbaraa in Vaavu atoll tested positive for drugs, police have revealed.

Briefing the press today, Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh explained that police received intelligence information suggesting that alcohol and drugs were being used and sold at the two-day music festival held on the uninhabited island.

Police raided the island with a court order at midnight on Friday night (April 18), he noted.

The Drug Enforcement Department, Specialist Operations, police intelligence department, and the forensic department conducted the operation, Satheeh said.

Upon searching the island as well as the 198 partygoers, Satheeh said police discovered different types of drugs and more than MVR90,000 (US$5,836) in cash.

In addition to beer cans, the drugs confiscated from the island included pills, LSD stickers, and hash oil joints as well as rubber packets, cellophane packets, and film canisters containing cannabis, Satheeh said.

The drugs, beer cans, and cash were displayed in a video presentation at the press briefing.

While all 198 persons on the island were held and searched, the chief inspector noted that the 79 individuals were arrested after drugs were found either in their possession or at the scene.

Police revealed earlier that the 79 suspects included one female minor, 19 women and 59 men, including one foreign male.

While the remaining 119 were released without charge, Satheeh revealed that none of them were tested for drug use.

Arrangements were not in place to conduct drug tests on the island, he added.

The 79 persons taken into custody were arrested either with drugs in their possession or because police suspected they were under the influence of drugs, Satheeh noted.

Contrary to media reports claiming that a number of people were naked, Satheeh said individuals of both genders were “wearing revealing clothing” when police raided the island.

Asked about the organisers of the festival and lease holder of the uninhabited island, Satheeh said he could not disclose further details as the initial stage of the investigation.

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