Court says Feb 7 police brutality video altered, acquits officer

Court says Feb 7 police brutality video altered, acquits officer
November 21 17:32 2015

A police officer caught on camera brutalizing an opposition member on February 7, 2012, was cleared of charges after a criminal court judge ruled that the video of the assault was tampered with.

According to local media, the judge ruled that the video of police officer Mohamed Niyaz attacking Ahmed Shahid, MP Eva Abdulla’s husband, may have been altered as it was sourced from private TV stations, Villa TV and Raajje TV.

The court was not able to summon the police officer who had conducted analysis of the video as he was out of the country.

The criminal court has not published the ruling online yet.

None of the six police officers accused of brutalizing Maldivian Democratic Party supporters on February 7 and 8 have been convicted to date.

Clashes had broken out between security forces and MDP supporters on February 7, prior to the mutiny that ousted then President Mohamed Nasheed.

Hundreds of Nasheed’s supporters were also injured the next day, during a heavy-handed police crackdown on the protest march. The human rights watchdog described the crackdown as “brutal” and “without warning.”

At least 71 people were hospitalised after the crackdown near the Republic Square area.

“I am not surprised,” Shahid told the Maldives Independent. “With all the injustice that is going on, I am not at all surprised that the police officer who assaulted me walked free. I have no interest in pursuing this case because I don’t foresee anything coming out of this.”

Shahid was attacked at the Republic Square on February 7. The police officer kicked and beat him and tore his shirt off.

In September, the criminal court acquitted a police officer charged with assaulting a protester on February 8, despite video evidence of the incident.

In August 2014, Attorney General Mohamed Anil told the parliament that the police watchdog body Police Integrity Commission had  investigated 45 cases of alleged police brutality and made recommendations to the home ministry to dismiss six police officers.

The police disciplinary board had investigated the cases and sacked one officer, but decided there was insufficient evidence to prove wrongdoing by the other five officers and decided not to dismiss them pending the outcome of a trial.

Of the six officers PIC had recommended be prosecuted, at least three have now been acquitted.

Of the 45 cases it investigated, PIC dismissed a majority citing a lack of evidence. In 11 cases, including against Nasheed, former MP Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Bonda,’ the PIC concluded excessive force was used, but dropped the cases for lack of evidence to identify the perpetrator.

Imthiaz Fahmy, the MDP spokesman, said: “This is yet another case that shows the Maldives’ criminal justice is fatally flawed.

“It’s been nearly four years since the MDP government was ousted in a coup by rogue security forces and none of the police brutality cases of February 7 and 82012 were looked into. A rare case such as this one was sent to court only to let the perpetrator walk scot free.”

Former PIC President Fathmath Sareera Ali Shareef declined to comment. The PIC was annulled and a new National Integrity Commission was formed to monitor all law enforcement agencies.

NIC Vice President Yoosuf Maniu said he was not able to comment as the commission is newly formed and does not have a permanent office yet.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives said the police force was accused in 54 out of 56 cases of torture reported July 2014 and June 2015.

The commission completed investigations into 37 cases and sent four cases for prosecution, the report stated, but the prosecutor general’s office declined to prosecute any of the cases due to insufficient evidence.

Even in cases where signs of abuse were visible on the victim’s body, the commission noted difficulties in identifying the perpetrator from among the police officers on duty at the time of the incident. The report noted that the perpetrator must be identified for prosecution.