Four years later, Ihavandhoo men face trial over civil unrest

Four years later, Ihavandhoo men face trial over civil unrest
September 22 13:43 2016

The Prosecutor General has charged 22 men from the northern island of Ihavandhoo with obstruction of police duty over the forced closure of a police station during nationwide civil unrest on February 8, 2012.

But their lawyer contends that the charges cannot be raised after more than four years.

Citing time limitations in the new penal code, Nazim Sattar explained that a person cannot be prosecuted for a misdemeanour more than three years after the offence was committed.

Obstruction of police duty is a misdeamnour that carries either a fine of no more than MVR12,000 (US$778) or a jail sentence of no more than six months.

The PG office spokesman has not responded to calls despite multiple attempts.

The charges were filed in the Ihavandhoo magistrate court on June 8 and a first hearing of the trial has been scheduled for Sunday.

Nazim has written to the PG office highlighting the time limitation and asking to withdraw the charges.

Thousands of Maldivian Democratic Party supporters had marched on the streets of Malé on February 8, 2012 after former President Mohamed Nasheed declared that he was forced to resign the previous day under duress in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinying Specialist Operations police officers.

At least 71 people were hospitalised after a heavy-handed crackdown on the march by the SO, described by the human rights watchdog as “brutal” and “without warning.”

The crackdown sparked riots across the country with government buildings, courthouses, and police stations set on fire on Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, and Addu City.

On several islands, police officers were either forced out of stations or compelled to leave the island.

Nearly 200 people were charged with terrorism over the February 8 civil unrest. Their trials are ongoing at the criminal court.

However, a single police officer has yet to be convicted over police brutality on February 8.

In May, two policemen charged with assaulting former MP Mohamed Gasam during the crackdown were acquitted by the criminal court.

In September last year, the criminal court also acquitted former policeman Ali Ahmed despite video footage showing the then-staff sergeant kicking a protester on the ground.