The father of a two-year-old boy was arrested Wednesday when he refused to comply with a court warrant ordering the return of the toddler to his mother.
The police used pepper-spray on the island of Himandhoo on Alif Alif Atoll to recover the child and arrested three of Shimal Ibrahim’s brothers on assault charges on Saturday.
All four have now been transferred to house arrest.
A video of the police’s recovery attempt has gone viral on social media.
The child has been returned to his mother, Mariyam Jameela, who is from the island of Maavah in south-central Laamu Atoll.
Himandhoo islanders have previously thwarted a police attempt to recover the child in May. Some 20 police officers were called in when five policemen failed to take the child away. Shimal went into hiding at the time.
A police spokesman said the father had refused to give up the child despite repeated requests. Pepper-spray was used on Wednesday to “control the situation,” he said.
“The family has filed the case with the National Integrity Commission. However, the police were only there to implement the court order.” The NIC is the police watchdog body.
Sources close to Shimal have accused the mother of negligence and abuse, but she has denied the allegations to local media.
Jameela told Sun Online Shimal took the child away in September during a visit to Malé last year and forced her to move to Himandhoo if she wanted to see her son.
Shimal’s family members, however, say Jameela left the child with his father and failed to check on his whereabouts for more than three days.
Jameela moved to Himandhoo in September and left in January to file a claim for custody in Malé, local media report.
The Family Act of 2000 grants the courts the authority to award a child’s custody to whichever party it sees as serving “the interests of the child.” Mothers are given priority.
The law states that from the age of seven, children’s views should be taken into account in custody rulings.