Wednesday 19 April, Male’: Members of the riot police unit attacked a peaceful opposition rally on Tuesday evening, dragging the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson, Hassan Latheef mid way through his speech, and indiscriminately spraying members of the audience in the face with pepper spray.
Eleven members of the audience at the rally calling for a free and fair local council election, were taken to hospital, suffering from breathing difficulties due to close range pepper spraying.
The joint opposition rally started at 9.30 pm in Sosun Magu, in front of the MDP headquarters. Participants were on the pavement, and were not blocking the road or passing traffic. The police attacked, without warning, at around 10pm.
The police’s violent and unprovoked behaviour towards members of the political opposition contrasted sharply with their attitude in another part of Male’ last night. At political rally President Yameen faction, which took place at the same time, the police closed adjacent roads and calmly directed traffic away from the area so the event could proceed without interruption.
Tuesday night’s violent attack follows a pattern of heightened political repression in the Maldives in recent weeks, following knife-edge votes in the People’s Majlis that almost saw the speaker of parliament, a Yameen crony, removed from his post.
On 6 April Jumhoory Party Leader Qasim Ibrahim was arrested and detained in Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre. Hon. Qasim has also been banned from traveling abroad. Although the trial against him is already underway, Qasim Ibrahim’s residence and offices belonging to his family business were raided on April 16. His personal mobile phone was also confiscated on the same day and he is again being summoned for questioning on Wednesday.
Deputy Leader for Jumhoory Party Parliamentary Group, and former Police Commissioner, MP Abdulla Riyaz, has also been put on trial for supposedly “obstruction to police duty”.
Progressive Party (PPM) MP, Faris Maumoon, was also summoned to the police on multiple times and his passport confiscated.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, meanwhile, has been stripped of power to head and run his own party, the PPM.
The Yameen regime has also started a second terrorism trial against former President Nasheed, who is currently in political exile.
President Yameen’s faction has expelled two parliament members of PPM after they pledged support to the no confidence motion against the speaker. The Police are also seeking to summon PPM Council member Mohamed Nadheem, and President Maumoon’s son in law.