MDP calls for the Immediate and Unconditional Release of MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz, National Council Members and Activists

17 February, Male’: Maldivian Democratic Party strongly condemns arbitrary arrest and continued detention of MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz, national council members and opposition supporters.

Total of 26 people were arbitrarily arrested by police on Friday and Saturday. Six members of MDP National Council including MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz and 10 opposition supporters are being arbitrarily detained by the police without access to lawyers for two days. Only 5 were brought to court while police have given no details about the arrest of the remaining.

On Friday, police used disproportionate force against demonstrators and journalists in a further demonstration of President Yameen’s desperate attempt to illegally cling to power.

Deliberately targeting media and obstruct live coverage of the protests, several journalists were heavily pepper sprayed at close range and violently attacked by the police. Hussain Hassan, a senior video journalist at Raajje TV was severely brutalised by the police and is still being treated in the hospital.

Despite unwarranted warnings by the Maldives Police Services, thousands of Maldivians peacefully demonstrated calling on President Yameen to enforce the Supreme Court ruling and to free political prisoners.

Protests were scheduled to begin at 4 pm on Friday. Police began arresting organisers and activists before the protest officially started, including MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz and several members of MDP National Council.

Friday’s protests were immediately met with shielded riot police heavily pepper spraying demonstrators and violently dispersing crowds in Male’ City, Addu City and many other islands in the Maldives.

MDP condemns in the strongest terms the disproportionate force used to disperse peaceful protesters, and obstruction of political activity and right to assembly. Blatant discrimination by Maldives Police Service in facilitating political rallies by President Yameen while violently dispersing crowds at the opposition rally is deeply worrying.

Police officers’ Complete disregard of the Constitution and the Police Act, their deliberate undermining of fundamental rights is a dangerous precedent and must immediately be stopped.