The Maldivian Democratic Party condemns the arrest of eight of its members and supporters on 26 July. The arrests were made during a prayer gathering; opposition supporters have been gathering outside Malé’s main mosque regularly, praying for an end to “tyranny and injustice.” The police have routinely dispersed the attendees at the prayers, on occasion heavily pepper spraying the crowd and arresting whoever leads the prayers. While the Police had previously allowed the prayers to proceed, on this occasion, the Police forcibly dispersed the crowd and arrested 8 people, including leading members of this party’s National Council. Two journalists who were covering the prayers were also arrested.
The MDP is concerned by the Government’s blatant disregard for what is an inviolable space for any Muslim and Maldivian. The Police entering the mosque, and making the arrests during the prayers is an inacceptable violation of the sanctity of the mosque, and we view this violation as an unnecessary aggravation. The MDP, therefore, calls on the Government of the Maldives to bring an immediate end to the mounting repression.
The arrests are part of what is clearly an intensification of the Government’s clamp down on the legitimate human rights activities of the political opposition and other activists. On July 25, MP Ali Hussein was summoned the Police for a tweet, accused of threatening policemen, and had his phone confiscated. On 26 July the Police harassed and obstructed a group of journalist conducting a silent protest against the proposed Defamation Bill, a Bill that they say would kill all press freedom. On 27 July, the Police arrested two tourists. One Italian and one Polish tourist were arrested, while they because they were taking photos of an Opposition gathering. The two remain under custody. A number of Shadow Ministers of the Opposition’s alliance, the Maldives United Opposition, have been summoned to the Police for 28 July.
“Arresting leading opposition figures and journalists, summoning senior party leaders to the police, inexplicably confiscating private property, especially of a member of Parliament, jailing of Members of Parliament and activists…this is all clearly an effort to criminalise legitimate political activity. We urge the international community to be mindful of the rapid escalation of the repressive measures and to do utmost to press upon the Maldivian Government the need to guarantee that all human rights defenders in the country are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals,” said MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.