At least 50 police officers today cordoned off the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s campaign office and dispersed hundreds of supporters gathered for a tea party.
The tea party was held after the party was forced to cancel a mass protest because of an unprecedented nationwide state of emergency.
At least four people, including a journalist with the opposition Raajje TV, were briefly detained, the MDP has said.
Noting the constitutional right to freedom of assembly has been suspended with the 30-day state of emergency, a police spokesman said officers did not obstruct the tea party, but prevented a gathering in the area.
“We told the MDP that it cannot organize gatherings on the street. They can hold their activities inside, but they cannot use speaker systems outside.”
Police set up barricades at the Artifical Beach area where the MDP’s haruge is located before the tea party started at 4:30pm.
The MDP had laid out sandwiches and snacks on a table inside the campaign office, but many were left uneaten because police pushed supporters back. Officers were quite aggressive, according to reporters at the scene. The tea ended at 6pm.
The tea was called after the party’s national council last night decided to postpone protests calling for the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed.
The state of emergency decree, effective from 12pm on Wednesday, suspends freedom to protest and privacy and rights on arrest.
Ali Niyaz, the party’s deputy chairperson, said the government had taken action against the party for legitimate political activity in the past, and may even label the party a terrorist organization and dissolve it if the protest went ahead.
The MDP’s council has called the state of emergency unnecessary and politically motivated.
The police interrupted last night’s council claiming it could not use speakers during the meeting. The party held an abrupt vote, and passed a resolution urging President Abdulla Yameen to revoke the decree.
The MDP in a statement condemned police obstruction, noting the constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to participate in political activities was not suspended.
Yameen cited threats to national security, including fear of imminent attacks with weapons and explosives missing from the state armory, to declare the state of emergency. He had narrowly escaped injury from a blast on his speedboat last month.
Vice President Ahmed Adeeb has been arrested over the blast.
Yameen also used the decree to shorten a 14-day impeachment notice to seven days, and the People’s Majlis on Thursday held a sudden vote to impeach Adeeb. He was not given the opportunity to speak in his defence.
Prominent lawyers have called Adeeb’s impeachment unconstitutional, while international human rights groups, the governments of the US and UK, the EU and the Commonwealth have called on the Maldives to revoke the state of emergency and lift restrictions on rights.
Many also called on Yameen to release Nasheed who was imprisoned in March on a terrorism charge. A UN human rights panel has ruled the opposition leader’s jailing illegal.
Photos by Ahmed Azim
Additional reporting by Shafaa Hameed