MP Mahloof arrested while promoting opposition rally

MP Mahloof arrested while promoting opposition rally
July 17 15:50 2016

MP Ahmed Mahloof and three others were briefly detained Saturday evening while promoting the first rally of the Maldives United Opposition due to take place on July 21.

Standing atop a pickup, Mahloof was using loudspeakers to invite the public to the rescheduled rally when riot police stopped the vehicle near the local market in Malé.

The MUO’s spokesman was led into a police vehicle and taken into custody while he was speaking to reporters in the area.

The pickup’s driver, an activist of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, and former MP Ahmed Easa were also arrested. All four were reportedly released last night.

The police spokesman was not responding to calls at the time of publication, but he told newspaper Mihaaru yesterday that the MP was “arrested for obstructing police duty.”

However, an “information slip” provided to the MP by the police states that he was stopped for the sake of public interest for using a megaphone on a parked pickup.

The former ruling party MP is presently standing trial on multiple counts of obstruction of police duty.

On Friday night, Mahloof told the press that the opposition coalition will go ahead with its rally “regardless of whether we get permission [from the housing ministry].”

The MUO, launched in London last month by opposition leaders in exile, had planned to hold the rally last Thursday night despite the last-minute withdrawal of a permit granted by the housing ministry.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz had said that the permit was cancelled because it was granted to the MDP and not to “some group called the united coalition”.

The housing ministry in early 2015 had taken over management of the capital’s public spaces from the MDP-dominated Malé city council.

Branding the coalition “unlawful”, Muiz declared that the government “will not give one inch of Maldivian land to hold unlawful gatherings”.

A march planned by the MDP to celebrate its 11th anniversary was also blocked by riot police last Monday night.

In a statement condemning the “unlawful obstruction”, the MDP said it has been “systematically denied any public space in which to hold political rallies or meetings.”

It added: “The party’s attempts to advertise and announce its rallies and meetings are also obstructed, with the police arresting whoever makes the announcements on the streets.”

A ban on street protests in Malé has been in force since a police crackdown on a three-day protest staged by the MDP last November.