29 July, Saturday, Male: President Yameen has intensified his crackdown on the opposition, as well as journalists, in the wake of the military lockdown of Parliament and the ensuing protests in the capital, just hours after the United Nations and the wider international community called on his regime to cease its undemocratic actions.
Arrest of Opposition Members of Parliament
On Monday 24 July, at around 11:30pm, the Police arrested MP Mohamed Waheed, accusing him of breaking through police lines and entering the parliament building after the Elections Commission had declared that he was no longer an MP.
MP Saud Hussain was arrested on the same charges, later Monday evening. However, he was released shortly afterwards due to an error on the arrest warrant. The warrant erroneously named MP Mohamed Ameeth in one section and MP Saud in another section, proving the warrants were not evidence- based but issued with malicious intent.
On the evening Thursday 27 July, the Police announced MP Saud Hussain is a “wanted man”, and said they are looking for him. MP Saud “surrendered” himself in on the 28th.
Also on Thursday, Police arrested MP Mohamed Ameeth at around 9pm. He was also accused of breaking through police lines and entering parliament.
The MPs’ arrest warrants all cited “a letter from the Parliament” as evidence for the charges against the lawmakers. No one has seen the contents of this letter, and the Head of Foreign Relations of the Parliament, bypassing the Secretary General of the Parliament, reportedly signed the letter.
The Criminal Court remanded all three MPs for 15 days, based on the letter from Parliament, which was not disclosed to the defense.
The Elections Commission announced last week that all three MPs were stripped of their seats after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified if they leave their party, been expelled, or switched parties.
The Elections Commission and the Parliament announced that six MPs have lost their seats, retroactively applying the Supreme Court ruling. However, an additional Supreme Court order had specifically clarified that the ruling cannot be applied retroactively.
The Supreme Court has since accepted appeals from four of the disqualified lawmakers. The lower court therefore issued arrest warrants while the cases are pending a decision at the apex court.
MP Faris Maumoon, who was arrested on 18 July remains in police custody. MP Faris has been moved 3 times to different custodial centres without explanation, since his arrest.
Trial against MP Qasim Ibrahim, leader for Jumhooree Party is ongoing.
Minority Leader, More MPs Summoned to the Police
Minority Leader, and head of the MDP Parliamentary Group, MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, along with Jumhooree Party deputy leader MP Abdulla Riyaz and MDP MP Mohamed Falah were all summoned to the Police on Thursday.
The MPs have been accused under four different charges:
- Resisting or Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer (Penal Code Section 532)
- Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Government Function (Penal Code Section 533)
- Disorderly Conduct (Penal Code Section 615)
- Criminal Trespassing (Penal Code Section 230)
MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is one of the most senior Parliamentarians in the country, and MP Abdulla Riyaz is the former Commissioner of Police.
If convicted, the lawmakers face a maximum sentence of 4 years and 3 months. The MPs will lose their seats with a sentence of over 1 year.
On 24 July, soldiers and the riot Police entered the Parliament House and forcibly removed opposition MPs. Since then, the Parliament has been seized by the military, and MPs are barred from entry.
There are no legal grounds or precedence for restricting MPs’ access to the Parliament.
Journalists Attacked, Arrested
On 26 July, as the Maldives celebrated its 52nd Independence Day, President Yameen launched a new attack on journalists.
The Police entered the MDP meeting hall and arrested 7 journalists who were covering events taking place there. The journalists were pepper- sprayed, beaten and then arrested. One journalist was hospitalised overnight because of injuries sustained during his arrest. The Police also confiscated the journalists’ equipment.
One female journalist has made a number of worrying allegations against the Police, accusing her arresting officers of physical and verbal abuse as well as disproportionate force. She has submitted her case to the National Integrity Commission.
The Police did not have a court warrant to enter the MDP meeting hall, which is private property.
The MDP has submitted case with the National Integrity Commission, against two Policemen for unlawful entry into its premises, and for the attack on people and journalists.
Opposition Meeting Halls Seized, Party Officials Harassed
On 25 July, the Police shuttered the Jumhooree Party HQ and meeting hall Kunooz, citing “unlawful gatherings.” Since the “seize and search” operation, the Police have issued a report saying they did not find any “evidence” in Kunooz. However, the HQ was shuttered for 72 hours.
On 26 July, around 10:30pm, the Police shuttered the MDP meeting hall, Haruge. The Police used liberal use of pepper-spray during the operation, and even locked the hall with people still inside. The Police did not have a court warrant for their actions.
On 25 July, Jumhooree Party Secretary General Ahmed Sameer was summoned to the Police. Sameer was accused of “obstruction of Police Duty” after he questioned the police over their attempts to search the JP Headquarters Kunooz for the second time based on an expired court warrant. According to 39(a)(9) of the Criminal Procedures Act, police can search for the second time using the same warrant only if it is specifically mentioned in the warrant.