The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) strongly condemns the mass arrest of peaceful protestors and opposition political leaders, follow the country’s biggest ever demonstration on Friday 1 May.
Police have arrested 195 people, including minors, and the leaders of all the main opposition parties.
MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and Jumhooree Party Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrhaim were all arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning, following a court order alleging them of attempting to overthrow the government.
The crackdown by the Yameen regime constitutes one of the biggest mass arrests in the Maldives’ history.
An estimated 25,000 people poured onto the streets of Male’ on Friday afternoon, demanding an end to authoritarian rule and the release of political prisoners, including former president Mohamed Nasheed.
The protest passed off peacefully but, just after 6pm, Special Operations ‘SO’ police baton charged protesters, firing tear gas and throwing stun grenades and pepper spraying people in the face – including the elderly.
Peaceful protesters were attacked by police without cause or warning – something witnessed by dozens of eyewitnesses, including representatives of human rights NGOs.
Several protesters were injured during the crackdown. The arrests were indiscriminate and the force used was disproportionate. Police refused those detained from access to lawyers.
Furthermore, the MDP notes with concern, harassment of the media during the protest. Private TV station Raajje TV was barred from covering the protest and also from the news briefing by police officials.
The Police also unlawfully removed and vandalised sound systems installed on private property, which were broadcasting audio coverage of the protest. Police officers reportedly urinated on the expensive sound systems, which had been rented by supporters of the protest.
Commenting on the mass arrests, MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said:
“The indiscriminate use of violent force by police against peaceful and unarmed protesters is simply unacceptable.
“Instead of choosing to lower the political temperature by initiating talks with the opposition and agreeing to release political prisoners, President Yameen resorted to his usual violent thuggery.”