Police crack down on opposition prayer, tea party

Police crack down on opposition prayer, tea party
July 30 09:58 2016

Riot police cracked down on the opposition’s weekly prayer gathering and a tea party Friday afternoon using pepper spray and force.

As in recent weeks, riot police moved in around 1pm to disperse the crowd gathered outside the Islamic centre in Malé after the Friday prayer. The Specialist Operations officers pushed and shoved prayer-goers and used pepper spray at close range.

The father of jailed MP Ahmed Mahloof was among seven men taken into custody.

Opposition supporters have been gathering outside Malé’s main mosque every Friday since February 2015 to pray for the freedom of jailed politicians and for deliverance from “tyranny and injustice”.

The Islamic ministry said in November that the prayer contained “ill wishes” and the police declared earlier this month that political activities will not be allowed near mosques.

Angered by the heavy-handed crackdown yesterday, opposition supporters also moved into the restricted Republic Square near the mosque in a spontaneous protest, prompting further arrests and dispersal by force.

Unlike previous weeks, opposition supporters also gathered in the southern Addu City as well as Thulhaadhoo in Baa atoll to perform the prayer.

About three hours after the crackdown on the prayer gathering, riot police officers also dispersed a tea party organised by opposition supporters at the Maldivian Democratic Party haruge (meeting hall) on the eastern end of Malé.

About 20 Specialist Operations police officers arrived at the scene around 4pm and claimed that the gathering was disrupting traffic and inconveniencing pedestrians.

A table was set up outside the haruge with short eats. When the opposition supporters refused to comply with orders to leave the area, the SO officers used force to confiscate the table.

A Raajje TV journalist and a member of the public was rushed to the ADK hospital after they were pepper sprayed at close range.

The police officers also blocked opposition supporters, led by former MP Ahmed Easa and Adhaalath Party Spokesman Ali Zahir, from setting off on a motorcycle rally, blocking their path and setting up barricades on Majeedhee Magu, the capital’s main thoroughfare.

According to Raajje TV, police officers also attempted to block a rally held in Addu City last night. Riot police officers in the southernmost atoll used pepper spray and confiscated a podium.

The Maldives United Opposition, a new coalition launched in London on June 3 by opposition leaders in exile, has been scaling up its activities since its first rally on June 21.

Thousands attended the rally despite uncertainty prompted by police crackdowns on all opposition activities. Despite the constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly without prior permission from the state, a ban on street protests in Malé has been in force since November.

MP Mahloof father

Opposition prayer Republic Square arrest SO arresting prayer-goer SO crackdown SO prayer arrest

SO crackdown on tea party

Photos from RanreendhooMaldives.