Social media activist arrested for ‘inciting hatred’

Social media activist arrested for ‘inciting hatred’
July 30 15:26 2016

A popular opposition activist was arrested Friday night on suspicion of using social media to “foment unrest in society and incite hatred among the public towards the security forces.”

Shammoon Jaleel, known as Lucas Jaleel on Twitter and Facebook, was taken into custody with a court warrant around 10pm last night. The criminal court also authorised the police to confiscate his phone to extract all his conversations, text messages, and other interactions.

The police cited “secret intelligence information” as evidence to obtain the warrant.

The criminal court extended his remand detention to 15 days this afternoon.

Lucas is an active member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s youth wing and an outspoken critic of President Abdulla Yameen.

Before his arrest, Lucas live-tweeted heavy-handed police crackdowns on the opposition’s weekly prayer gathering and a tea party. He has more than 13,600 followers on Twitter.

According to his lawyers, the young writer could be facing charges under section 533 of the penal code, which deals with obstruction of law or government functions, a class one misdemeanour that carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.

In April, Lucas had sought police protection after receiving a threatening phone call from a ruling party MP.

The unprecedented arrest over posts on social media appears to be part of a wider crackdown on free speech.

It follows the confiscation of MP Ali Hussain’s phone by the police last week. The opposition MP was summoned for questioning over a tweet in which he said that everyone has the right to defend themselves against the unfair use of force by police officers.

Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef, the former vice president of the Fiqh academy, was also summoned by the police Thursday over a Facebook post.

Iyaz had questioned the sincerity of the government’s push to implement the death penalty.

The religious scholar was summoned after a complaint was filed by the judiciary, his lawyer told the press. Iyaz exercised the right to remain silent.

MP Ali Hussain’s phone was meanwhile returned after a day. But he has been summoned to appear at the police headquarters again at 8:30pm Sunday night.

Lucas’s arrest has caused an uproar on social media, with many joining former President Mohamed Nasheed to demand his immediate release.