Angered by the police’s attempts to limit protests to pavements, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led a march in Malé late at night, walking along streets randomly and sometimes, against the traffic flow.
Hundreds of MDP supporters have been gathering at the central junction in front of Seagull café periodically over the past week, calling on the government to release jailed president Mohamed Nasheed, as per the recommendations of a UN human rights panel.
Protesters must remain on the pavements to facilitate traffic flows, a police spokesman said.
Witnesses said dozens of police officers, some in plain clothes, “aggressively pushed protesters out of the street” at 9:45pm. Some 200 protesters then set off chanting for Nasheed’s release. The protest ended at 11:30pm.
On Saturday, police used heavy pepper spray against protesters and arrested two. Mohamed Mushrif, a former coordinator at the defence ministry, was charged with assault and has since been transferred to house arrest.
After a three-month hiatus during which negotiations with the government failed to secure Nasheed’s release, the main opposition party resumed its anti-government campaign last month with rallies, street gatherings and protest marches.
It has also called for a nationwide mass demonstration on November 6.
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on a terrorism charge relating to the military detention of a judge during his tenure. His arrest in February triggered a political crisis in the Maldives.
The government says the Supreme Court will have the final say on Nasheed’s imprisonment. An appeal is before the apex court, but it is not clear if the court will review the case.
MDP is scaling up its activities at a time of infighting with the government over an explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.
Reporting by Hassan Mohamed and Shafaa Hameed