Maldives police raid private TV station at midnight

Maldives police raid private TV station at midnight
November 06 10:57 2015

The police raided private station Sangu TV at 1:30am last night, stopping its live transmission and confiscating hard disks and archive systems.

According to the court warrant authorising the search and seizure operation, the police were seeking evidence related to a “video message uploaded to YouTube threatening to kill the president of the Maldives and senior officials of the state, and to carry out terrorist attacks.”

The police had submitted information from YouTube and an intelligence report to obtain the warrant.

Ruling party MP Yameen Rasheed, a close associate of impeached Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, is reportedly a shareholder of the Dhivehi Media Group company that operates Sangu TV.

Adeeb is in custody on suspicion of links to a blast on the president’s speedboat on September 28. The government insists a bomb targeting President Abdulla Yameen caused the explosion.

A month before the explosion on the “Finifenma” speedboat, a video message was posted on YouTube showing three masked men with guns threatening to kill the president and vice president.

The video was posted by a user called ‘Slavery slave’ with the militant organisation Islamic State’s (IS) logo in the corner.

The men threatened to kill the president and launch terrorist attacks against the tourism industry within 30 days if the government does not comply with three demands: stop “harassment” of Ibrahim ‘Sandhaanu’ Moosa Luthfy in Switzerland, release Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and withdraw new anti-terrorism legislation.

Ibrahim Waheed ‘Asward,’ managing director, told the press after the raid ended around 4:30am that he was certain Sangu TV’s staff and management would not have uploaded such a video.

The police seized hard disks from 27 computers and destroyed a safe at the office, he said.

Asward said he doubted whether Sangu TV could resume transmission without the confiscated broadcasting equipment.

The station’s lawyer, Hanyfa Khalid, expressed concern with the police ordering Sangu TV staff to cease its live transmission as the warrant did not authorise the order.

Asward said police officers “turned the office upside down” and had told the station’s staff not to answer phone calls during the raid.

According to Sangu TV, the police had also turned off security cameras in its offices in Henveiru Sheeshaamuge and left the station “in a crippled state.”

The Sangu TV raid comes after President Yameen declared a 30-day nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday, citing threats to national security and raising fears of imminent attacks.

Yameen issued a decree suspending several fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of assembly, and granting the police sweeping powers to arrest suspects and carry out raids.

Last night, police officers and armed soldiers raided a house called Moonlight Valley in the Henveiru ward of the capital. One individual was reportedly taken into custody and police officers were seen leaving with evidence bags.

The government says the security forces believe that weapons are missing from a large arms cache seized from an uninhabited island leased to a businessman linked to Adeeb.

The security forces have “definitive information of plans by some individuals to use these explosives and weapons that would endanger the lives of the citizens of the Maldives and threaten the national security,” reads the decree.

The UK and the US as well as international human rights organisations have called on the Maldivian government to lift the state of emergency and restore constitutional freedoms.

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