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MDP leaders detained from campaign run

The jogging track was closed for “purposes of the ministry of youth and sports” but remained empty when police blocked the ‘Jazeera Run’.



The Maldivian Democratic Party’s chairman, spokesman and youth wing leader were briefly detained Friday after police blocked a jogging event around Malé.

The ‘Jazeera Run’ was due to begin at 4:30 pm at the capital’s Ekuveni jogging track. But a day before the campaign event, a notice was put up announcing the track’s closure on Friday afternoon for “purposes of the ministry of youth and sports”.

MDP leadership figures and activists who gathered in the outer road near the sports ground were blocked by Special Ops police, who arrested chairman Hassan Latheef, his deputy Ali Niyaz, MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, youth wing leader Mickail Naseem and activist Ahmed Maimoon.

All five were taken to the Galolhu police station and released about an hour later.

Others were pushed back into an alleyway as police barricaded the area. After the cornered joggers were allowed to leave close to sunset, some made their way to the MDP meeting hall near the artificial beach.

Despite the track remaining empty, the sports ministry denied the closure was politically motivated, telling the media Friday evening that it was not informed of a campaign event by any political party.

Political space for the opposition has been severely restricted in recent years. Riot police are routinely deployed to take down banners and confiscate food trays and tables from MDP tea parties.

Street protests have been effectively banned in Malé since late 2016.

More recently, police officers snatched ballot boxes and arrested party officials to stop the MDP’s presidential primary. At least 26 island and atoll councillors have been suspended for helping with the nationwide polls.

In a statement condemning Friday’s incident, MDP called the obstruction of opposition activities and intimidation, arrest and suspension of participants “dirty acts carried out to deny space for opposition political thought, rule dictatorially, and to not allow the opportunity for free and fair elections”.