Dozens of riot policemen dispersed the opposition’s weekly prayer for political prisoners at Malé’s main mosque on Friday.
Imthiyaz Fahmy, the main opposition Democratic Party’s spokesman, said policemen shoved aside scores of opposition supporters when they gathered inside the Islamic Center’s yard following the Friday prayers.
“They had their hands raised in prayer. It is very concerning that policemen would come between the people while they prayed to god,” he said.
The dispersal is the second consecutive attempt by the police to stop the weekly prayer, which began following the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed over a year ago.
Musthafa Luthfy, Nasheed’s running mate during the 2013 polls, said the police’s interruption led to heated exchanges between opposition supporters and the police. No arrests were made.
“The police said that they were not allowed to pray there, they did not give a reason,” he said.
The Islamic Ministry issued a statement last November saying that the prayer contained “ill-wishes towards particular people” and that it created “strife, hatred and anger” among Maldivians.
The ministry claimed the prayer violated the Religious Unity Act, and said action would be taken against “repeat offenders.” Soon afterwards MDP member Ahmed Hassan, who led the prayer, was arrested and detained for a period of ten days.
“That the government would stop a peaceful and legitimate activity shows that they are determined to take away the rights of the people, whether it is freedom of assembly, freedom of expression or freedom of the press,” Fahmy said.
The police were not responding to calls at the time of going to press.
President Abdulla Yameen is facing international pressure to release Nasheed and other jailed opposition leaders.
Nasheed is in the United Kingdom on government-authorised medical leave, while others, including two former defence ministers and the president of the Adhaalath Party have been transferred to house-imprisonment temporarily.
Yameen Allah ah biruvethi nuvaa kan SO fuluhun lavvaa dhakkaalaifi. Dua kuran fuluhun huttuvaifi. Bireh nuganey baa? pic.twitter.com/XEdyRShcQS
— PresShaani (@ujaasu) April 29, 2016
— sanpaa (@SANPAA20) April 29, 2016
— TeamMdp (@TeamMdp) April 29, 2016
— June Abdul (@JuneAbdul) April 29, 2016