A guard at the high-security Maafushi jail was injured last Tuesday amid rumours of a prison riot and custodial abuse.
Lugman Ahmed, spokesman of the Maldives Correctional Service, said the officer was injured in a scuffle after he tried to stop inmates from stealing electricity from an outlet.
“On Tuesday night, inmate broke a light in a cell and tried to take electricity from the outlet. Guards went in to stop the inmates and one officer was injured,” he said.
However, opposition lawmakers alleged that guards beat up and forcibly shaved the hair of several inmates.
Multiple sources familiar with the incident told the Maldives Independent that inmates had protested after electricity was cut off at their unit.
“There are only two mercury lights in unit three on a wall about 20-feet from the cells. The lights are usually turned on after nightfall, and inmates use the lights to eat when the food is brought in,” a source said.
“But on Tuesday night, the lights weren’t turned on. With no lights how do they eat, so they started to strike. And when the guards came in to do a headcount, they didn’t let them count.”
Clashes broke out after the Emergency Support Group, a special backup unit of prison officers, was sent in to do the head count, according to the sources.
One source alleged that the ESG returned later after the officer was injured and “singled out certain inmates and just beat them up.”
The source added: “They took two people to the hole [solitary confinement]. And eight others were put in separate cells in unit four. Each of them had visible injuries. That’s what they do, if someone’s visibly injured they would separate them so that they can’t be seen.”
The alleged custodial abuse came amid heightened political tension and the sources described the incident as “a political distraction.”
“The way I see it, it’s a political stunt, whenever things get tense in Malê they do this. The inmates in unit three are angry inmates, murder suspects, they are easily provoked,” one source said.
“There are about seven or eight people in one cell. A cell is about 20 to 15 feet, it’s very crowded but they keep brining more people. So those inmates are already angry, and the guards can do something like cut electricity and make them start a fight. When you throw stones to a bee hive, would they stay in?”
The MCS spokesperson denied the allegations of abuse.
“Inmates may have suffered injuries while the guards tried to control the situation, but no one was injured to the point needing medical attention,” he said.
In early March, some 70 inmates reportedly staged a hunger strike in protest against poor facilities and difficulties in receiving medical care.
— Eva Abdulla 🎈❓ (@evattey) July 27, 2017
Rey Maafushi Jaluga hingaadhiya hamanujehumuga gaidheenah koffahuri aniyaa pic.twitter.com/UUHGMnvt5a
— 𝐀𝐡𝐦𝐞𝐝 𝐌𝐚𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐟 (@AhmedMahloof) July 27, 2017