The criminal court on Monday found a man guilty of assaulting MP Mariya Ahmed Didi and fined him MVR200 (US$13).
In a verdict delivered more than five years after the incident, the court ruled that the prosecution’s evidence was sufficient to prove that Hassan Rashid from the Nanreethige on Alif Alif Rasdhoo assaulted the lawmaker on the morning of February 7, 2012.
Video footage shows Rashid strike Mariya on the face after mutinying police officers beat up supporters of then-President Mohamed Nasheed at the Republic Square in Malé.
“Talking about this is rather difficult for me, I was beaten up and dragged on the floor by dozens of policemen and to again be hit on my face like that…,” Mariya told the Maldives Independent.
“He had shown no sign of remorse during the trial or even outside the court.”
The former chairwoman of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party added that she was not seeking revenge or compensation but expressed concern that the fine would not act as a deterrent.
The fine was imposed with reference to the 1960s penal code as the charges were filed before the new penal code came into force in July 2015.
The judge opted for the MVR200 fine in lieu of banishment, house arrest or imprisonment for up to six months.
“This is what you’d literally describe as ‘adding insult to injury,'” Mariya tweeted after the verdict.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Aneesa Ahmed, founder of local women’s rights NGO Hope for Women, expressed disappointment with the court’s decision “when innocent women are being subjected to violence”.
“Imposing an MVR200 fine is basically nothing. It is sort of condoning the violence against women. It is as if the judges and decision makers in the judiciary do not think it is a big deal to engage in violence against women,” she said.
The verdict fails to either highlight the seriousness of the issue or serve as a deterrent, she added.
“No form of violence should be tolerated or taken lightly, this is unacceptable,” said Aneesa, who served as minister of gender, family and women in former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s cabinet.
The criminal court has previously imposed the MVR200 fine in domestic abuse cases, most recently in September 2016 when a man was found guilty of hitting his wife.
A similar case in May 2015 where a man was fined MVR200 for assaulting his wife and shoving her onto the deck of a fishing boat had also sparked outrage from the public and women’s rights advocates.
Monday’s verdict meanwhile marks the first conviction in connection with acts of violence before and after the resignation of former President Nasheed in the wake of a violent mutiny by Specialist Operations police officers and elements of the military.
In November 2015, a police officer caught on tape kicking and beating Ahmed Shahid, husband of MDP MP Eva Abdulla, on the morning of February 7, 2012, was cleared of charges by the criminal court.
The judge ruled that the video evidence may have been altered as it was sourced from privately-owned stations Villa TV and Raajje TV.
A day after the transfer of power, at least 71 people were meanwhile hospitalised after a heavy-handed police crackdown on Nasheed’s supporters near the Republic Square.
But in September 2015, the criminal court acquitted a police officer charged with assaulting a protester despite video evidence of the incident.
Two policemen charged with assaulting former MDP MP Mohamed Gasam during the crackdown were also acquitted with the court citing insufficient evidence.
The same officers have pending charges in connection with assaulting Mariya during the February 8 crackdown after she was dragged out by SO officers while hiding in a shop with Nasheed and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.
Al Jazeera filmed parts of the crackdown, reporting that “police and military charged, beating demonstrators as they ran – women, the elderly, dozens left nursing their wounds”.
The BBC reported “a baton charge by police on crowds gathered outside one of the main hospitals.”
Videos also emerged on social media showing SO officers brutally beating MDP MP Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Bonda.’ The police watchdog later concluded that excessive force was used but dropped several cases citing lack of evidence to identify the perpetrators.
Journalists from the Maldives Independent saw police officers and soldiers baton charge the front line of protesters while other police officers attacked from a narrow alley.
The SO police officers screamed profanity, pointed to and chased after individual MDP activists, and severely beat unarmed civilians, hitting several people over the head with their batons.
According to the human rights watchdog, several people were bruised and battered, one person fractured a bone in his leg, one person was left with a broken arm, and six people sustained head wounds.
Two fingers on the left hand of one demonstrator were crushed. No charges were raised in connection with the incident.
Photo by Sun Online