Opposition activist arrested over tweet released with conditions

Opposition activist arrested over tweet released with conditions
September 08 13:48 2016

A popular opposition social media activist arrested on a charge of “spreading hatred” against the security forces was released from custody on Wednesday after the high court overturned his third detention order.

Shammoon ‘Lucas’ Jaleel was arrested on June 29 over a tweet in which he likened police officers to a streak of tigers. The 27-year-old spent one month and seven days at the police detention centre on the island of Dhoonidhoo.

Despite overturning the criminal court’s third order to hold Lucas in remand detention, a three-judge panel at the high court imposed four conditions for his release, which will be applicable until charges are dropped or he is sentenced after a trial.

Lucas is prohibited from carrying out or participating in any activity that hinders law enforcement officers, impugning the honour and reputation of such institutions, and leaving the country without permission.

He must also cooperate with the police if they wish to search his home and present electronic communication devices upon request.

After his release, Lucas told the Maldives Independent that he was happy and encouraged by the high court’s decision.

He also vowed to continue his activism.

“I have always, and will continue to advocate for freedom of speech and opinion, for justice, democracy and good governance,” he said.

“I am so grateful to see the flood of support I received when I was inside. I am at a loss for words, I don’t know how to thank everyone.”

Lucas’s offending tweet was posted with a photo of a dozen police officers confiscating tables at a tea party organised by the opposition alongside the photo of a streak of tigers playing in the snow.

“Some animals were sent to earth in the shape of humans,” he wrote.

An active member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s youth wing and an outspoken critic of President Abdulla Yameen, Lucas has over 15,000 followers on Twitter.

Before his arrest, Lucas live-tweeted heavy-handed police crackdowns on the opposition’s weekly prayer gathering and the tea party.

He was arrested days before the ruling party-dominated parliament approved a new law re-criminalising defamation as well as content and speech that threaten national security, breach social norms and Islamic tenets.

The police obtained an arrest warrant after submitting a secret police intelligence report. He was accused of conspiring with others and using social media to “foment unrest in society and incite hatred among the public towards the security forces.”

The warrant also authorised the police to confiscate his phone.

Two opposition MPs are also under investigation over tweets that police said encouraged violence against police officers, a claim they denied.