The opposition-aligned Raajje TV has alleged that three of the station’s journalists arrested while covering last night’s bomb scare were beaten by the police.
The criminal court today released Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, chief operating officer, and journalists Mohamed Wisam and Leevan Ali Naseer when they were brought before a judge for extension of detention.
The journalists were brought to the remand hearing this afternoon in handcuffs. They were arrested near the Ekuveni Stadium around 7:45pm last night on charges of obstructing police duty, disobeying orders, and assaulting a police officer.
The police had evacuated the sports ground area and closed the surrounding streets to traffic while the military’s bomb disposal unit worked on defusing an improvised explosive device found near the official presidential residence.
The police also pushed back reporters from the area. A journalist and a photographer told The Maldives Independent that they were manhandled and shoved by police officers.
Citing eyewitness accounts, Raajje TV said in a statement that its journalists “were badly beaten up.”
Fareesha Abdulla, a lawyer representing the journalists, said Wisam’s left eye was swollen and bloody. He had difficulty speaking and moving and had told the lawyer that he was repeatedly beaten by five police officers.
Wisam said the policeman continued to beat him him inside the Iskandhar Koshi barracks, located in front of the sports ground.
Fiyaz meanwhile has difficulty hearing as a policeman had struck him hard on the ear and face, Fareesha said.
Raajje TV did not specify the nature of injuries that Leevan sustained.
A police spokesperson, however, denied that the journalists were beaten either during or after their arrest.
“These individuals resisted police arrest and struggled. Perhaps that is the reason for the injuries they sustained,” the media official told The Maldives Independent.
He added that all three were that taken to a doctor last night, who “confirmed that none of them had any serious health issues.”
The spokesperson said police officers had first tried to arrest one of the journalists after he attempted to enter the cordoned-off area after allegedly hitting a policeman. The other two responded aggressively and attempted to prevent police from arresting their colleague, the official added.
“Therefore, all three were arrested and I can assure you that they were not mistreated. What the lawyer has said about police beating them up even inside Iskandar Koshi is a blatant lie,” he said.
Fareesha meanwhile told the press after today’s remand hearing that the police had sought to keep the journalists detained for 15 days, claiming that they posed a danger to society.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has condemned the arrests and called on the government to release all three journalists.
“We call for the dismissal of police officers who participated in beating up and mistreating the Raajje TV journalists in an inhumane manner while the three were on active duty,” the party said.
The MDP praised the journalists for “working tirelessly” to report accurate information of last night’s bomb threat, criticising the security services for failing to properly inform the public to prevent fear and panic.