The police have confiscated the phones of three shadow cabinet ministers of the Maldives United Opposition after summoning them Saturday afternoon for questioning over a fund set up to help detainees.
Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, Hassan Latheef, and Shidhatha Shareef had announced the launching of the “detainees and welfare fund” on July 24. The opposition coalition pledged to provide financial help to individuals arrested during protests.
“The police questioned us regarding the detainee fund. Apparently, they are of the view that the fund is an obstruction to the proper functioning of the state and implementation of the rule of law,” Latheef, shadow minister for civil rights, told reporters yesterday.
The police also produced a court order to seize their mobile phones, he added.
Thasmeen, a former MP and shadow home minister added: “We fully cooperated with the police questioning.”
The coalition said in a statement last week that the fund was “set up to assist the families of those who may be arrested by police during MUO political activities.” It added that “the fund’s administrators would also track the status, gather and impart information on detainees, their whereabouts and stages of their cases.”
The police also confiscated the phone of MP Ali Hussain last week. The opposition MP was summoned for questioning over a tweet in which he said that everyone has the right to defend themselves against the unfair use of force by police officers.
His phone was returned after a day but the MP has been summoned to the police headquarters again at 8:30pm tonight.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who serves as a special advisor to the MUO shadow cabinet, has described the detainee fund as “an opportunity to impart and receive encouragement and courage.”
Nasheed, who launched the MUO in London last month with other opposition leaders in exile, urged opposition supporters to contribute to the fund.
According to the coalition, the family of a detainee will receive MVR1,000 (US$65) as an immediate donation, which would be followed by MVR5,000 (US$324) if the court orders remand detention.
The fund could also be used to cover other costs related to the welfare of detainees and other families.
Shidhatha Shareef, the shadow cabinet minister for social security and gender, previously told The Maldives Independent:”The MUO would like to assure the Maldivian people that we will in every way support and stand by you in your efforts and sacrifices in the path of justice and democracy.”
She expressed confidence of gaining public support for the fund, especially from those who are unable to actively involve themselves in the coalition’s activities or street protests.
The MUO shadow cabinet has previously pledged to reinstate police officers if they are sacked for refusing to enforce “unlawful orders” and crack down on opposition gatherings.
After a hiatus for Ramadan, the MUO has been scaling up its activities since its first rally on June 21.
Thousands attended the rally despite uncertainty prompted by police crackdowns on all opposition activities. The coalition has been holding motorcycle rallies and nightly gatherings in Malé since the rally.