Seven policemen have been suspended as the police launch a criminal investigation into an apparent assault committed by drug enforcement officers while arresting a suspect.
An amateur video showing four policemen beating up a man for nearly two minutes went viral on Friday night. The four policemen are seen punching and kicking the victim, who falls down only to be picked up and held against a wall so the beating can continue. One of the police officers is seen using a brick to commit the assault.
In a statement issued on Monday, the police said the attack took place during a drug-related search and seizure raid in the Maafannu quarter of Malé. Police confiscated 461 grams of substances believed to be drugs and arrested a 36-year-old Bangladeshi from the house. A 28-year-old Maldivian man, who tried to flee from the scene, was also arrested.
According to local media, the officers severely assaulted the Bangladeshi man.
The police statement said the actions of the undercover officers recorded on video violated the police code of ethics and the police code of conduct and that those involved are now being investigated by the professional standards command. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the National Integrity Commission have also launched separate investigations.
In addition, a special team has been assigned to investigate the criminal aspects of the assault.
On Friday night, hours after the video was shared on multiple platforms, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party secretary-general Anas Abdul Sattar tweeted that policemen had entered his house and questioned the residents of several apartments about the video.
“The incident occurred inside a house in front of ours. These ‘officers’ came into our house, questioned us about this video, went on to the next floor and came back again, accused us of recording the video, tried to search the phone, warned us to delete any videos,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, several social media users raised concerns about several policemen who had changed their Facebook profile pictures black. Some profiles had the words “with DED [drug enforcement department]”, in an apparent show of solidarity with the suspended policemen.
Police spokeswoman Izmia Zahir told the Maldives Independent that the special team will also investigate alleged attempts by police officers to tamper with evidence and threaten witnesses.