The MDP Condemns in the Strongest Terms the Arrest of Activists calling for Free and Fair Elections; Call on the Government to Release them Immediately and Unconditionally

The Maldivian Democratic party condemns the unjust and unfair arrest of this party’s activists, from Aa. Ukulhas.

Abdulla Saeedh, Fikuree Haneef, Saudhullah Ibrahim, Abdul Wahidh, Ali, Ibrahim Suzain, leading activists, and Moosa Naeem, the Atoll Council’s Vice President and MDP’s Deputy for the Province, were arrested in the late evening on 5 February, on charges of “sorcery.” They’re remand was extended to 15 days.

The activists had participated in a party gathering calling for free and fair elections. The gathering had also been part of MDP’s protest against the Election Commission’s, the Courts’ and the Government’s excessive influencing of the local council elections, in favour of the ruling party.

The arrests appear to be a intensifying of the Government’s intimidation and harassment of opposition members and supporters, ahead of the local council elections. The Government has threatened supporters with their jobs, and bribed MDP candidates with offers of Government jobs in exchange for withdrawal of their MDP candidacies. The arrests are part of the same strategy of intimidation and harassment.

The MDP views the arrest of the 6 men from Ukulhas as a deliberate and strategic tactic by the Government to signal a message to MDP supporters. The first arrests of the Government’s local council campaign coming from Aa. Ukulhas is not a coincidence. Ukulhas was one of the islands to ever demonstrate against the establishment during the Maldives’ reform period in 2003, and has remained a MDP stronghold since then. These arrests are clearly meant to signal the consequences of demonstrating against President Yameen, to other opposition supporters and dissenters in other islands.

“Last night’s arrests in Ukulhas go beyond the farcical and reeks of President Yameen’s desperate need to suppress the opposition in every dimension of Maldivian society. In a local council election plagued with delays and intimidation, these arrests are yet another tactic from President Yameen’s frequently used handbook on how to not hold a free and fair election,” said MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.