Peaceful Opposition Rally Met with Police Pepper Spray and Arrests

Saturday 13 June, MALE: The opposition alliance held a large, sit-down protest on Friday evening, demonstrating against the Abdulla Yameen regime’s assault on the country’s democracy and calling for the release of political prisoners, including former president Mohamed Nasheed.

At least 9 people including former ruling party MP, Ahmed Mahloof and Deputy Secretary General of Adhaalath Party Ahmed Shareef were arrested. Mahloof was arrested from a narrow street at around 3am. Shareef was arrested at around 1am while he was holding a placard calling for the release of President of Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Imran.

Several thousand opposition supporters — including members and officials from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Adhaalath Party and the Jumhooree Party — staged the ‘sit in’ in the middle of Majeedhee Magu, Male’ main thoroughfare.

Protesters called for the end to the Yameen dictatorship and for the immediate release of political prisoners, including Nasheed and also former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

The protest, which started at 9pm local time, passed off peacefully and largely without incident until around 11pm, when police moved in to confiscate the protest sound system. At around midnight, members of the notorious ‘SO’ riot police unit moved in and pepper sprayed protesters indiscriminately.

After some 45 minutes, the police managed to move the protest from Majeedhee Magu. The charging riot police chased protesters into side streets, where they regrouped, and continued the demonstration.

The protest moved back to Majeedhee Magu and was still ongoing at 4am local time.

Yameen Hounding the Entire Political Opposition

In recent months, the Abdulla Yameen regime has jailed or pressed serious criminal charges against most leaders of the political opposition, in a continuing and sustained assault on the Maldives’ democracy.

Many opposition politicians, including most of the JP leadership, have fled abroad to avoid arrest and the likelihood of a biased and politically-motived trial.

International Community Voices its Concern

In recent weeks, the Yameen regime has been subjected to a growing chorus of international concern over his increasingly dictatorial tactics:

  • “The United States should work with India and other democratic countries to impress upon the Maldives that its decisions are having serious adverse consequences on its relationships abroad. And the United States must also urge the Maldives to release all political prisoners, including President Nasheed.” – US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed, 8 June
  • “We see even now, regrettably, that there are signs – troubling signs that democracy is under threat in Maldives, where former President Nasheed has been imprisoned without due process. This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon.” – United States Secretary of State John Kerry, 2 May
  • “Deplores the serious irregularities in the trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed; insists he should be immediately released.” – European Parliament Resolution P8_TA-PROV(2015)0180, 30 April
  • “Recent events reflect a justice system that still remains deeply politicized along the same lines of entrenched political loyalties that pre-date the transition period” – International Commission of Jurists, 26 March
  • “The serious due process violations… since Mr. Nasheed’s arrest… is simply unacceptable in a democratic society… The defense was also banned from cross-examining prosecution witnesses and presenting defense witnesses, in clear violation of the principle of equality of arms…the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.” – UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul, 19 March
  • There were “flagrant irregularities” and Nasheed was sentenced after a “hasty and apparently unfair trial.” – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, 18 March
  • “The conviction of Mohamed Nasheed . . . after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.” – Amnesty International, 13 March