May Day protester released from prison

May Day protester released from prison
April 04 08:13 2017

The clemency board on Monday granted a conditional release for a woman jailed for hitting a police officer with an empty plastic coke bottle during the 2015 May Day anti-government protest.

Nasira Ali was sentenced to five years in prison on July 25, 2016 after she was found guilty on a charge of aiding and abetting assault using a dangerous weapon. Five men were also convicted on the same charge and jailed for five years. 

Ahmed Lugman, spokesman at the Maldives Correctional Service, said Nasira would be returned to jail if she violates the conditions set by the clemency board.

Lugman refused to disclose the conditions. According to local media, Nasira must not be accused of committing a crime in the next three years.

Nasira, who has a seven-year-old daughter, has been in jail since her arrest on the night of May 1, 2015. Her verdict came more than a year after her detention and nearly eight months after the court heard closing statements.

The trials began in July 2015 and the court heard closing arguments at a final hearing on November 30.

Proceedings were also stalled after the presiding judge, Abdulla Mohamed, was demoted to the family court in February. The cases were then reassigned to different judges.

The 25,000-strong rally on May Day was the largest anti-government demonstration in Maldivian history.

Scores of protesters and two police officers were injured during violent clashes and nearly 200 protesters, including leaders of three allied opposition parties, were arrested.

The police at the time released video footage showing protesters kicking and hitting a fallen Specialist Operations officer over the head with his helmet and baton.

The policeman had been flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment after the assault. But lawyers representing the accused said the policeman only sustained minor bruising.

Nasira was among 15 suspects arrested in connection with the assault.

Four were charged with assault using a dangerous weapon, an offence that carries a seven-year jail term, and the rest were charged with aiding and abetting the crime, which carries a jail sentence of between three to five years.

Ibrahim Laban Shareef, Farhath Ali, Abdulla Rasheed Mohamed, Umar Zahir, and Ahmed Ibrahim were convicted along with Nasira but two co-defendants, Moosa Sharmeel and Ali Rasheed, were acquitted based on lack of evidence.

The court said Laban, the former goalkeeper of football club Eagles, tackled Sergeant Abdul Rahman Hussain to the ground near the Iskandhar School on Chandhanee Magu.

According to the verdict, Abdulla Rasheed and Ahmed Ibrahim kicked the police officer. Umar Zahir and Nasira struck the officer with a water bottle and coca cola bottle, respectively, and Farhath Ali tried to remove the officer’s helmet.

Mohamed Iqbal, 50, was earlier found guilty of assault and sentenced to seven years in prison whilst the criminal court acquitted one defendant, Usman Hussain, citing lack of evidence.

The police were meanwhile accused of beating protesters during and after their arrest. Lawyers and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party alleged that the police tortured and threatened to kill suspects arrested in connection with assaulting the Specialist Operations officer.

After complaints were lodged, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives launched investigations into three cases of apparent brutality and custodial abuse.

But a single police officer has yet to be convicted of brutality.

In September 2015, the criminal court acquitted a police officer charged with assaulting a protester during a crackdown on a protest march in February 2012, despite video evidence of the incident.

In February 2016, Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla was meanwhile controversially found guilty of terrorism over a speech he gave at the May Day rally and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Imran was accused of inciting violence with inflammatory allegations against President Abdulla Yameen and then-Tourism Ahmed Adeeb. The prosecution argued that the president of the religious conservative party must bear responsibility for the violent clashes.