The High Court has granted the police monitoring and control or ‘MoniCon’ orders to electronically tag, conduct surveillance, and intercept communications of “10 known gang members,” Home Minister Umar Naseer revealed today.
I have ordered Police to run MoniCon Orders on 10 known gang members. More to come. Full force of the law will be applied.
— Umar Naseer (@UmarNaseerPPM) March 24, 2016
Shortly after Naseer’s tweet, the police said in a statement that the home minister has decided to seek MoniCon orders against 11 gang members. The High Court has granted orders against six suspects so far, the police said, which are now being enforced.
The move comes after two gangs in Malé accused the police of covering up an “illegal and unprovoked” assault by Specialist Operations officers on Friday night that left many injured. The police are also accused of ransacking three gang hangouts.
The army was deployed to the streets briefly on Friday night after the police arrested 13 suspects, all of whom were released the following day. Another 11 were arrested Monday morning with the police claiming it was part of a “special operation to curb violence.”
According to the opposition-aligned Raajje TV and CNM, SO officers are unhappy with the police leadership, who they say need to bear responsibility for the fight with the gangs.
Sources told The Maldives Independent station that the incident occurred after a police officer intervened when some gang members had tried to leave a restaurant without paying the bill. But the officer was allegedly assaulted by the gang members, who also later found the officer’s home and threatened his family.
When senior police officers failed to take immediate action, the source said the beaten SO officers’ colleagues acted on their own and raided the three gang hangouts and beat people there.
Victims of the assault told The Maldives Independent that some 24 officers in riot gear had barged into Masodige in Galholhu ward and Jade in Maafannu ward without court warrants. Many had to seek medical attention for injuries, they said.
Raajje TV also reported that some 13 SO officers were briefly suspended, but a police spokesperson denied the claim.
An SO officer meanwhile told CNM that it would not be fair to investigate the elite officers without taking into account the negligence of senior officers.
The SO is a specially-trained squad formed in 2004 in response to the country’s first pro-democracy demonstrations.
The elite unit quickly developed a reputation for brutality. Mutinying SO officers played an instrumental role in the ousting of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7, 2012 and were at the forefront of heavy-handed crackdowns on opposition protests.
The home minister and police chief have defended the police, condemning intimidation and threats against police officers and their families and causing damage to the homes of police officers as “unacceptable.”
According to a police statement, Commissioner of Police Ahmed Areef said in a meeting with police officers working on the islands of Thulusdhoo and Himmafushi that “all the police will come out together to save police and their families.”
Today’s monicon orders, the first issued against suspected gang members under the controversial 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act, are aimed at diffusing the fight between SO and the gangs, a well-informed source has said.
The alleged gang members will be required to stay home between 10:00pm an 6:00am and cannot leave the capital without the home minister’s permission.
The police are also authorised to control their communications and financial transactions and tag the suspects with electronic devices attached to their feet and placed in their home environment.
“The police note that enforcing such actions against people who repeatedly commit crimes and gather at a particular area and disturb and harass residents of that neighbourhood will improve public safety and security,” the statement read.
Naseer told pro-government news website Avas that the suspects will have tags attached to their feet to monitor their whereabouts.
“They will have to be home at set times. Otherwise they will be taken straight to jail,” he said.
Ten young men were arrested from southern Addu City and the island of Faresmaathoda in Gaaf Dhaal atoll this week for threatening police officers.