MDP activist arrested for photographing policemen

MDP activist arrested for photographing policemen
May 24 17:54 2016

A member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s youth wing was briefly detained Monday night after she photographed traffic policemen towing vehicles in Malé.

Hamna Waheed told The Maldives Independent that she took photos of the policemen while waiting outside the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital with a friend around 7pm. 

The traffic policemen were placing stickers on vehicles outside the parking zone, she said.

“The traffic police officer would have seen me. He did not make a big deal out of it. A few minutes later a tow pickup came with officers on it. I was just taking some pictures when the driver came to me and rudely said that I could not take pictures,” she recounted.

Hamna said she had asked the policeman whether photographing was prohibited by a law and the officer insisted that it was.

The other policemen on the vehicle tried to convince him to let her go, she continued.

“[But] he then called someone and angrily asked them to send a woman along with a vehicle. The person on the other end had said that there were no female officers at the station at the time. He had made about three phone calls,” Hamna said.

The driver then told her that she was being arrested for obstructing his fundamental rights and tried to take to the police tow yard.

“I told them that I will not go to the tow yard, but if they would take me to the police headquarters I would go willingly,” she said.

A police car then arrived to take to the headquarters.

“They did not let me get in the car with my friend. I was asked to go alone. The officers in the car asked why I was arrested. When I explained it to them they asked me not to delete the photos,” she said.

At the police headquarters, Hamna said the investigating officer told her that she had done nothing wrong.

However, the driver who instigated her arrest came to the headquarters and insisted that she had obstructed police duty.

“The investigating officer came to the room and said Hamna will be free to go after giving a statement along with her lawyer. However, the officers who were on the tow vehicle came once again with what looked like a form that said that I disobeyed police orders, I refused to sign it because no such thing happened,” she said.

The IO told the officers that they could not force her to sign it.

“After the IO went outside with them and came back in he told me that he had received a phone call asking to give me advice and a warning. I once again refused to sign it. So they wrote that I refused to sign it and took my statement and said that the case will not go on further. I left the headquarters around 9:15pm,” she said.

Hamna filed a complaint with the watchdog National Integrity Commission today.

Ismail Ali, the police spokesperson, declined to comment on the incident. “She has been released. We will not answer any other questions,” he said.

Several people have been arrested in recent years for taking photographs of police officers.

In February, the opposition-aligned Raajje TV’s sports editor was arrested for taking a photograph of a police officer carrying out an alcohol bottle during a raid.

Later that month, national team footballer Assad ‘Adubarey’ Ali was arrested after allegedly photographing Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf without his consent.