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Foreign couple arrested after photographing opposition rally

The detained couple has been identified as a Polish national who works as a freelance photographer and her husband, an Italian businessman. The police spokesman said they were “taken in for questioning” after it was discovered that they did not have valid work permits.



A foreign couple was arrested Wednesday night after taking photographs of a rally by the Maldives United Opposition near the artificial beach in Malé.

A lawyer representing the detained couple identified them as Elwira Magdalena Szczecian, a Polish national who works as a freelance photographer, and her husband Santarosa Francesco, an Italian businessman.

The police spokesman told The Maldives Independent last night that two foreigners were “taken in for questioning” after it was discovered that they did not have work permits.

The immigration law prohibits working in the Maldives on a tourist visa.

A judge ordered their release this afternoon when they were taken to the criminal court for a remand hearing.

However, according to the lawyer, the police held the couple again and handed them over to the immigration department, which has put them on a flight to Italy tonight. They also wanted to leave after the ordeal, the lawyer said.

Video footage and photos of their arrest show about 15 Specialist Operations police officers surround the couple near the opposition meeting hall while the rally was ongoing.

The woman is seen holding aloft her European press passes. The couple held their hands in the air while they were escorted away.

The lawyer told The Maldives Independent that the couple gave statements for the police investigation last night.

They were accused of violating section 613 of the penal code. It requires licenses or permits from relevant state authorities for specific activities.

The police also questioned them over alleged involvement in political activities, which they denied.

The couple said they were meeting Maldivian friends near the artificial beach. They have visited the Maldives about 20 times and were staying in Hulhumalé for three days before a planned visit to the Olhuveli resort.

According to local media, the couple were previously deported while covering the unrest in Malé in the wake of the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

In December last year, a German TV crew were deported while filming for a story on Islamic extremism.

The four-member crew from Germany’s ARD TV, the world’s second-largest broadcaster, was deported on a charge of violating immigration laws. The crew, who have denied the charge, was subsequently accused of defaming the Maldives with a false report on Islamic extremism.

This article was updated at 10:30pm to include the criminal court’s release of the couple and their departure from the Maldives.