A man arrested Friday for surfing at Malés surf point was denied access to a lawyer based on a new regulation that bars detainees from legal counsel on Fridays and public holidays.
The police procedure, introduced on March 20, states that meetings between detainees and lawyers could only be “held from 9 am to 10 pm, on days except for Fridays and public holidays.”
Mushfique Mohamed, who represents the detained surfer, said: “This notice is unconstitutional.”
His client, Ahmed ‘Karo’ Fauzan was arrested at 4pm on Friday at Raalhugandu, now restricted for surfing because of the construction of a bridge between Malé and the airport Hulhulé. He was not allowed to wear a t-shirt or sandals before he was taken into custody.
Mushfique was only allowed to meet Karo the next day. He has since been released, with a warning.
The pair filed a complaint today at the police oversight body, the National Integrity Commission, and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives.
According to Mushfique, Karo was also strip searched at the detention centre, despite only wearing board shorts at the time.
A spokesman for the police said the new regulation does not prevent detainees from meeting their lawyers “if absolutely necessary.”
Ibrahim Riffath, the former solicitor general, also called the new regulation unconstitutional; noting that only a law passed by the People’s Majlis could narrow fundamental rights or freedoms.
“If police are unable to provide fundamental rights and freedoms to those arrested on public holidays and Fridays, they should perhaps refrain from making any arrests on such days,” he said.
Lawyers say the new regulations were set following complaints by high-profile political detainees over discriminatory treatment in custody, and established to limit lawyer and family visits.
More than a dozen surfers have been arrested for protesting damage to the surf point from the China Maldives friendship bridge. Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz has pledged to provide surfers with transport to alternate surf points and claimed that the construction of the bridge would not cause lasting damage to the surf point.
The Maldives Surfers Association said Saturday that the government is yet to make alternate arrangements.
The Raalhugandu is the only area in Malé with direct access to the ocean and is popular with surfers, families and joggers alike. But it has been blocked off since January for bridge construction.