EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS OF FORMER PRESIDENT NASHEED’S ARREST
“The police used disproportionate force to arrest President Nasheed. They landed on this tiny island dressed in full SWAT gear and carrying weapons. They behaved aggressively, and sometimes violently, towards Nasheed’s supporters. We believe Nasheed’s arrest is politically motivated, aimed solely at preventing him from campaigning ahead of the presidential elections. We strongly condemn his arrest and President Waheed’s increasingly authoritarian tactics,” said Ahmed Naseem, former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Nasheed’s government.
On Monday 8 October, at around 9.30am, President Nasheed arrived in Fares-Maathodaa island, in Gaaf Dhaal atoll. He received a warm welcome, had some refreshments and headed to the home of former Minister of Housing and Environment, Mohamed Aslam.
Shortly afterwards, police speed boats and MNDF Coast Guard vessels were seen near the island.
At 9.44 am, two small speed boats swiftly sailed towards the island, with a police counter-terrorism SWAT team on board. The team was reportedly commanded by Mr. Ishaaq, the brother of current commissioner of Police, Abdulla Riyaz.
All the police, except two police media officers, were all in full riot gear, fully masked with tear gas guns.
The police arrived at the house where President Nasheed was and was met by Aslam. Aslam asked for a court order to enter his house. The police presented Aslam with a piece of paper. He had a look at it and told the police he would come back.
There appeared to be no real order within the police team. While one policeman said ‘we will wait’, another policeman yelled ‘aharumen mi aee court amuruge dhashun, elhaa gendhan vee’ – (We are here with a court order. Take elhaa out. Elhaa is derogatory language).
Within seconds, the police forcefully entered Aslam’s house, barging onlookers out of the way. They used shields, batons as well as foul language at the people gathered near the house. Nasheed’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ahmed Naseem, and former Press Secretary Mr. Mohamed Zuhair, were pepper sprayed by the police and violently dragged from the house, while the police also removed members of parliament from the scene.
Ms. Saleema Mohamed, a participant of the campaign trip, was inside the living room when the police entered the house. “They pushed their way in, hurting anyone inside the house. Minister Aslam asked them repeatedly to calm down and to not hurt anyone. He was saying: ‘this is my house’. The police shoved him and pushed him and he fell on the glass table and broke the table,” she said.
The police first broke into the room of Minister Aslam’s elderly father. The police then forcefully broke the door of the toilet while Aslam’s father was inside using the toilet.
Then, they searched the rest of the house. The police looked over through the pan-light of one of the rooms and saw President Nasheed. They said: ‘kaley dhoru hulhuvaa’ (Open the door, in indecent language). Member of Parliament for Mahibadhoo Constituency Ms. Rugiya Mohamed and Former Minsiter of Education, Ms. Shifa Mohamed heard the police saying ‘dhoru vattaalaa. Elhaa nerey’ (forcefully break in. Get elhaa[derogatory language], out). Shifa and Rugiya had gone to get medicine for President Nasheed and with difficulty and begging were able to give him his medication. Rugiya was shoved and pushed by the police officers. Meanwhile, President Nasheed’s personal private security was also removed from the scene forcefully.
Then about 12 officers fully masked in riot gear entered the room President Nasheed was inside. Then another policeman came out and asked for his shoes. Police used foul and derogatory language at his staff and supporters outside.
Media were not allowed to cover the scene and were specifically asked to not get on the boat in which he was taken.
President Nasheed has been on Presidential campaign trail since 1 October and Fares Maathodaa is the 17th island he has visited. The campaign trip has been met by large number of supporters greeting and to welcome Prseident Nasheed to their islands.
President Nasheed was scheduled to meet the Danish Ambassador in Fares Maathodaa in the morning.