Police crackdown on opposition protest – as it happened

Police crackdown on opposition protest – as it happened
November 27 16:12 2015

Opposition supporters are staging this year’s fourth mass protest urging President Abdulla Yameen to release all political prisoners.

Live blog ended at 12:45am

12:18am: No arrests tonight, the police said in a tweet, adding that pepper spray was used to control “unruly protesters.”

11:48pm: Police have chased down and pepper-sprayed the remaining pockets of protesters who headed down Majeedhee Magu and into the city.

11:37pm: Police have broken up the protest. Pockets of protesters remain on the streets. Some have regrouped near the Olympus Theater on Majeedhee Magu.

11:31pm: Some opposition supporters, including members of the leadership, are reportedly receiving treatment for injuries at the ADK hospital. Protesters are saying the pepper spray used tonight is unusually strong.

11:13pm: Police have cleared out the Artificial Beach area.

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11:07pm: Police have entered MDP’s campaign office Haruge near the Artificial Beach and shut down the sound systems and lights there.

10:59pm: Police are using pepper-spray to disperse protesters.

10:30pm: MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz says police officers have pepper sprayed him and hit him. At least three injured, according to reporters on the scene. All roads leading out of the Artificial Beach have been blocked by barricades and by police in riot gear.

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10:26pm: Police are pushing protesters back towards the Artificial Beach.

10:22pm: Protesters and riot police at a stand off on Majeedhee Magu.

10:10pm: Protesters are preparing to march. A block away from Artificial Beach, police officers in riot gear have formed lines and blocked the main street Majeedhee Magu.

10:03pm: Home Minister Umar Naseer tells pro-government newspaper Avas that the government will not release Nasheed. The police are already investigating the death of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, he said, and added that the door for dialogue was always open.

9:16pm: Addressing Yameen, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz has issued the following demands:

1. Release Nasheed immediately
2. Release Nazim and Imran and drop charges against 1700 opposition supporters, and launch an independent inquiry into the death of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan
3. Engage in meaningful dialogue with the opposition for judicial reform

In his speech, Shifaz noted international criticism of the jailing of opposition leaders and expressed concern over the loss of confidence in the security forces, increasing debt, and persisting social ills such as money-laundering and human trafficking.

A fax machine was brought to the Artificial Beach to fax the demands to the president’s office.

8:30pm: Protest continues at the Artificial Beach. Some are having dinner.

7:30pm: Dismissing the home minister’s claim, the Adhaalath Party says it is in fact taking part in the protest. The party says it remains fully committed to the fight against tyranny.

Protesters performed Isha prayers at Artificial Beach too.

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MDP says it will issue its demands after Isha prayers.

6:30pm: A religious sermon is ongoing. Hundreds remain at the grounds. Police estimates turnout to be 2,000 people, but MDP puts the figure at 4,000. Home Minister Umar Naseer says Adhaalath Party has told the government it is not officially taking part in the protest.

Meanwhile, police officers on duty were seen performing prayers at the Artificial Beach.

6:00pm: Break in speeches for dusk prayers. Protesters line up at the Artificial Beach to perform Maghreb prayers.

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5:30pm: Speakers including Adhaalath Party’s Sidhatha Shareef and Nazim’s brother Adam Azim speak out against government corruption and the jailing of opposition politicians. Tarpaulin is being laid out on the ground.

5:10pm: The Artificial Beach grounds is a sea of yellow. But Home Minister Umar Naseer says the turnout is significantly low. “MDP has lost momentum,” he said.

5:00pm: Ali Shiyam, MDP deputy chairperson, urges protesters to remain at the Artificial Beach grounds as planned for 73 hours and 13 minutes.

He outlines the protest schedule: speeches till 6pm, religious sermons after dusk prayers, followed by issuing demands on the government. He announces a march for tonight, and calls on the security forces to allow the march to go ahead.

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4:50pm: MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih begins rally with chants for Nasheed, Nazim and Sheikh Imran’s freedom. He expresses solidarity with the citizens of southern Addu City who are suffering from the worst floods in 40 years.

“Maldives is under a cloud of fear and tyranny. No citizen has security,” he says, and goes on to call for Yameen’s resignation.

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4:45pm: Police in riot gear briefly blocked the MDP leadership from marching towards the Artificial Beach. Thousands are already at the grounds. Protest has officially kicked off with recitation of the Quran.

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4:30pm: Opposition supporters are pouring into the Artificial Beach area by the hundreds. The MDP’s leadership has set out from its head offices and are now marching towards the beach.

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4:15pm: Tensions are high in Malé as the opposition gears up for a prolonged protest urging the release of political prisoners. The Artificial Beach grounds are decked in flags and posters, and booming with the sound of protest songs. A podium has been erected at the center for speeches.

The security forces are on alert after Home Minister Umar Naseer warned the Maldivian Democratic Party to confine the protest to the Artificial Beach grounds and end it by midnight, a move the MDP has decried as an attack on freedom of assembly.

Police in riot gear have gathered at a government building located a block away from the Artificial Beach. The media has been warned against coverage that creates uncertainty and breeds mistrust against the security forces.

The protest, held under the banner ‘Minjuvaan’ or ‘Liberation,’ is aimed at pressuring President Abdulla Yameen to release imprisoned politicians including former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, and detained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.

The MDP says hundreds of its supporters have arrived from the atolls to join the protest.

The day started out rainy, but the rain has let up now. The weather continues to be cloudy.