Two policemen charged with assaulting former MP Mohamed Gasam during a brutal crackdown on a protest march on February 8, 2012 were acquitted by the criminal court on Monday.
The prosecution’s evidence was insufficient to prove that the defendants Ibrahim Faisal and Ali Abubakur assaulted the former Maldivian Democratic Party MP for Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, the judge ruled.
Prosecutor General’s Office Spokesman Hisham Wajeed said the state will not appeal the verdict “as there is no legal basis to challenge the acquittal.”
The charges were filed in October 2014.
Thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé on February 8 after former President Mohamed Nasheed declared that he was forced to resign the previous day under duress in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinying Specialist Operations police officers.
At least 71 people were hospitalised after the heavy-handed police crackdown, described by the human rights watchdog as “brutal” and “without warning.”
However, charges were only raised against six police officers, none of whom have been convicted to date.
Expressing disappointment with the court’s ruling, Gasam told The Maldives Independent: “There is no need to explain what happened and how I was brutalised. It is all on video footage. I was dragged on the road in front of the [Maldives Monetary Authority] building like one would drag a dead tuna.
“I received several blows on my head, and the buzzing which was caused as a result lasted for around one year – facts that can be corroborated in medical documents. I did not expect the court to uphold the law and rule on the side of justice, given the state of the judiciary.”
Both police officers who were declared not guilty this week also have pending charges in connection with the assault of MDP Mariya Ahmed Didi on February 8.
In November, police officer Mohamed Niyaz was also found not guilty of assaulting Ahmed Shahid, husband of MDP MP Eva Abdulla, despite video footage of the incident.
The judge said the video evidence may have been altered as it was sourced from private stations Villa TV and Raajje TV.
The police officer who analysed the footage was not summoned to testify as he was out of the country.
In September, the criminal court also acquitted former policeman Ali Ahmed despite video footage showing the then-staff sergeant kicking a protester on the ground.
February 8 crackdown
Some 32 people had filed complaints at the human rights watchdog concerning varying degrees of injuries sustained in the crackdown. Some 20 people submitted medical documents.
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, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives noted in a report.
Two fingers on the left hand of one demonstrator were crushed, the report stated.
Some 43 people were treated for injuries at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and 28 people were treated at the ADK private hospital.
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 meanwhile reported “a baton charge by police on crowds gathered outside one of the main hospitals.”
MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik was flown overseas for the treatment of severe injuries. Moosa and MP Mariya were dragged out by SO officers while they were hiding in a shop with former President Nasheed.
Videos also emerged on social media showing SO officers brutally beating MDP MP Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Bonda.’
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.
The police crackdown sparked riots across the country with government buildings, courthouses, and police stations set on fire on several islands, including Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, and Addu City.
Nearly 200 people were charged with terrorism over the February 8 civil unrest. Their trials are ongoing at the criminal court.
Meanwhile, according to the HRCM’s second annual anti-torture report last year, the police were accused in 54 out of 56 cases of torture reported between July 2014 and June 2015.
The commission completed investigations into 37 cases and sent four cases for prosecution, the report stated, but the prosecutor general’s office declined to raise charges due to insufficient evidence.
Even in cases where signs of abuse were visible on the victim’s body, the commission noted difficulties in identifying the perpetrator from among the police officers on duty at the time of the incident.
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