In an early morning raid on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s residence on Thursday, police officers confiscated CCTV recording equipment including a hard disk.
The group of 13 forensic police officers, who had arrived at 9:40pm left only at 4am. They searched through books, fish tanks, and awoke Nasheed’s 13-year old daughter to search her room.
The police are looking into the authenticity of a document issued to Nasheed, officially commuting a 13-year jail sentence to house arrest. The government denies authorizing the transfer, and re-imprisoned Nasheed on Sunday.
Nasheed’s lawyers and family members have accused the police of harassment and criminal trespassing.
Police at Pres Nasheed’s flat with a third warrant.1am,the children were asleep, & the police still inside.Deliberate harassment,provocation
— Eva Abdulla (@evattey) August 26, 2015
Police officers produced four different court warrants; the first was a permit authorizing officers to view CCTV footage, the second and third were search warrants authorizing a search for the original house-arrest transfer document, and the fourth, issued at 3am, was a warrant to confiscate CCTV recording equipment.
Nasheed’s lawyers on Tuesday night had shared with the police CCTV footage of the state official who had delivered the documents on July 19. A copy of the document shared with the media bears the state seal, a government letterhead, a signature and a reference number.
“Police searched everything, all the rooms including president Nasheed’s and of his daughters, the kitchen, the living room, all the books were even taken off the shelf and searched individually,” Hisaan Hussein, a member of Nasheed’s legal team said.
The former president’s wife, Laila Ali, had informed the police that the documents they were looking for were not in the house as they had been sent abroad for an independent forensic analysis, Hisaan said.
The first and second court order expired by midnight, but the police insisted on remaining inside the residence, claiming a third court order extending the search was about to be issued.
The third order authorised a search between 12:30 am and 1am. The Maldives Independent has obtained copies of all court orders.
“Police continued their search until 1:06 am, and then insisted on confiscating the CCTV recording equipment and footage,” Hisaan said.
Family and lawyers, however, refused to allow the police to confiscate the items, noting the court order relating to the CCTV footage had expired at midnight.
@PoliceMv demanding hard disk of security camera but the court order states only the CCTV footage.Now even that order has expired at 12!!
— Ibrahim Riffath (@ibriffath) August 26, 2015
According to Hisaan, the office in charge of the search operation told family and lawyers that even without a court order, “we shall confiscate the CCTV equipment and footage,” and added, “You may pursue the matter with relevant authorities.”
Laila refused to hand over the items and ordered the officers to leave her home, since warrant had expired. Police officers did not comply, saying a fourth court warrant was on its way.
“I do not know how they were so confident that a court warrant would be granted after midnight, they acted as if a court warrant was something they could produce out of thin air,” Hisaan said.
Although forensic officers left the premises, the office in charge of the search stayed inside Nasheed’s house along with two other officers from 1:20am to 3:15am. The police’s actions amounted to “criminal trespassing,” Hisaan said.
In the two-hour period, police officers refused to allow Raajje TV reporters inside the residence, despite permission from the family, and called in riot police to remove the two journalists on multiple occasions.
Riot police guarded the entrance until forensic officers left with the CCTV equipment. The fourth warrant was signed by criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed. Nasheed was convicted of terrorism on a charge of ordering the judge’s arrest in 2012.
Lawyers claimed the police are yet to question MCS staff.
Ironically @PoliceMv has not even questioned any employee of Correctional Services in respect of the “forged” document investigation!
— Ibrahim Riffath (@ibriffath) August 26, 2015
When asked to respond on the allegations of unlawful conduct, including the decision to remain inside Nasheed’s house without a court warrant, police spokesman Ismail Ali told The Maldives Independent to “properly perform your duties as journalists” and to ask Nasheed’s family if they had cooperated with the police.
“The family claims the document is authentic, if so, they could just have handed the recording and document over to us, none of this would have happened if they did so,” he said.
Ismail did not comment on the actions of the riot police at Yaagoothuge.
Nasheed’s re-imprisonment has sparked international concern. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the UN have renewed calls for his release.
Additional writing by Zaheena Rasheed