MDP condemns arrest of MP Mahloof from anti-corruption protest

MDP condemns arrest of MP Mahloof from anti-corruption protest
March 12 14:11 2016

The Maldivian Democratic Party has strongly condemned the “unconstitutional” obstruction of a protest march by the police yesterday as well as the heavy-handed use of pepper spray and the arrest of MP Ahmed Mahloof.

The Independent MP for Galolhu South was arrested from inside the Jalaaludheen mosque around 6:00pm. The police claimed Mahloof assaulted an officer during “a disturbance” that occurred after the protest ended.

Raajje TV journalist Mohamed Wisham was meanwhile pepper-sprayed during the protest. According to the opposition-aligned station, Wisham required treatment at the ADK hospital for four hours.

Several protesters pepper-sprayed in the face at close were also treated at the private hospital.

The police have been blocking the opposition’s weekly anti-corruption walks since early February. The main opposition party had resumed street protests in the wake of a damning audit report exposing the biggest corruption scandal in Maldivian history.

Following a crackdown on a three-day protest in November, Home Minister Umar Naseer had declared that the government is banning all street protests and restricting political activities to designated public spaces.

Shortly before yesterday’s gathering began at the Chandhanee Magu-Majeedhee Magu intersection, police officers entered the Machangoalhi Maadheli house with a court warrant and confiscated a sound system and loudspeakers set up for the protest.

“[The police] requesting a criminal court order to remove a sound system, which is not a weapon that can be used to commit a criminal offence, from inside a house, and for the court to grant such an order, clearly shows the depths to which the country’s criminal justice system has sunk,” the MDP said in a statement today.

According to the MDP, Specialist Operations police officers started shoving and pushing back protesters as soon as opposition supporters began gathering at the central junction.

After the protest ended at 6:00pm, riot police officers told protesters to head home via the western side of Chandhanee Magu, the statement continued, but the crowd was blocked by another group of police officers.

The MDP accused the police of using tear gas, instigating the disturbance and assaulting MP Mahloof. The party said it has video footage of the incident.

Police officers also “violated the sanctity” of the Jalaaludheen mosque by entering without removing their boots, the statement added, demanding the immediate release of MP Mahloof and calling for an inquiry into the “unconstitutional” actions of the riot police.

Mahloof has been an outspoken critic of President Abdulla Yameen since his expulsion from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives in February last year. He has been at the forefront of opposition protests against the imprisonment of opposition leaders, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Mahloof is currently on trial on a charge of obstructing police duty at an opposition protest in March last year. He was also questioned at the police headquarters in early February after claiming that there are millions of dollars in the first couple’s private bank accounts.