Seven police officers accused of beating up an unarmed suspect could be facing criminal prosecution.
The officers were suspended in July after the incident was caught in an amateur video that went viral. Recorded from a high vantage point, the video showed four people beating up an unarmed man for nearly two minutes. Allegations that the assailants were officers of the drug enforcement department were confirmed when police relieved the suspects of duty and placed them under investigation.
The case has now been forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s office for advice, which is the initial stage of consultation between investigators and prosecutors before charges are filed at court, police spokeswoman Izmia Zahir told the Maldives Independent on Sunday night.
The suspension period has expired but the police officers remained on leave and have not been allowed to return to work, she noted.
According to police, the assault took place during a drug-related search and seizure raid in the Maafannu ward of the capital Malé. DED officers confiscated 461 grammes of illicit narcotics and arrested a 36-year-old Bangladeshi man from the house along with a 28-year-old Maldivian man who tried to flee from the scene.
According to media reports, the Bangladeshi suspect was the victim of the alleged police brutality.
Hours after the video was shared on multiple platforms, witnesses alleged on social media that policemen had entered a building opposite the house where the assault took place, questioned residents of several apartments and threatened them to delete the videos.
The criminal investigation into the assault will also look into the alleged attempts to tamper with and destroy evidence, police said. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the National Integrity Commission have also launched separate investigations.
The video showed four men punch and kick the victim who falls down only to be picked up and held against a wall so the beating can continue. One of the men is seen using a brick to commit the assault.
In the wake of the suspensions, 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.