Special Ops used teargas to disperse opposition supporters celebrating the imminent release of political leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, as the government urged restraint following a Supreme Court ruling.
Officers with riot shields on one of Malé’s main roads told people not to take part in any protests and asked everyone to immediately leave.
“We will use force and will not be responsible for any damage inflicted by using force,” they said, according to a Maldives Independent reporter at the scene. “People are screaming at them,” said the reporter. “Their pickup just started driving into the rally.”
Teargas was used to break up crowds who had been filling the capital’s streets since late Thursday evening. Another Maldives Independent reporter saw people being manhandled to the floor and led away. The reporter counted four arrests.
Earlier the defence minister had urged people to exercise restraint “for the sake of harmony” and warned that it could be a time of a national security crisis.
Shareef was speaking at a news conference late Thursday that was aired on the privately run Channel 13 and state broadcaster PSM, alongside the army chief, the attorney general and the home minister.
Attorney General Mohamed Anil said the government was trying to verify the authenticity of the court order but had so far been unsuccessful.
“The security services, that is the MNDF and police, will continue the work they are doing to ensure the safety of all Maldivian citizens. Along with that, the Maldivian state and the government will not hesitate in delivering the services needed for the people.”
He also revealed that the court ruling had claimed its first scalp.
“At this sensitive time, to conduct safety and security related work, despite several attempts the president has been unable to reach the Commissioner of Police Ahmed Areef after the ruling was issued.
“So with the powers vested in the president under the constitution, the president has dismissed Ahmed Areef from the position of commissioner of police. Due to this decision, under the police act, the police service will be overseen as acting commissioner of police by Deputy Commissioner of Police Ahmed Saudhee.”
Nasheed also called for restraint, tweeting: “Urge all citizens to avoid confrontation and engage in peaceful political activity.”