During Friday night’s mass anti-government demonstration, lawyer Ahmed Thalib said police officers specifically targeted him for assault.
Thalib told RaajjeTV that he went out with a friend to observe the protest, not to join it. But he was arrested and put inside a police vehicle in which officers assaulted him.
“When we were there a police vehicle came by, and then the people there walked inside an alleyway. I didn’t attack the officers or do anything wrong. I just waited there and then tried to walk home.”
Thalib said that, as he was walking away, a police officer targeted him and put him inside a police vehicle and assaulted him.
“Me and my friend were walking away. Then a Special Operations officer came up from behind and arrested me. I told him that my house was nearby and that I came here just to watch. I wasn’t here to participate in the protest. But he told me to get in the vehicle. I got in and was sitting inside the vehicle with a lot of masked Special Operations (SO) officers standing around me, and the one who put me inside hit me.”
While there were two people at the scene, Thalib said he believes he was targeted for the assault. He believes the officer had hit him in the eye with his knee.
“I believe I was arrested just to be assaulted. I was disoriented after being hit and didn’t really know what happened at the time. I believe he hit me with his knee because I was sitting and looking down. He stepped away to get ready to hit me and I wasn’t aware of it. I became disoriented and then realized he hit me. My whole face was numb.”
After the assault, he was taken to police headquarters where he endured further harassment.
“When I was taken out of the vehicle there was a Special Operations officer taking down names. He asked what happened to me and I told him that I was assaulted. The officer who hit me, who was right next to me, started mocking me by asking who had hit me and why my eye was like this. I told him that he hit me. Then he denied it and said I was injured while being arrested and everyone else began taunting me as well. The officers in the truck and the female officers mocked me and swore at me.”
He was later taken to prison island Dhoonidhoo where the doctors there recommended that he be returned to the capital city. However, police officers transferred him back again to police headquarters and made him stay there for some time before releasing him.
“They took me to Dhoonidhoo because they wanted to keep me in detention. At Dhoonidhoo I told them that I needed ice cubes for my eye, for fear of permanent injuries. I told them that if anything happens to my eye I might never recover. But even after I pleaded, it took them two hours to get me to the medical centre and get me some ice cubes. The doctors there recommended that I be returned to Male’.”
He noted that police officers ignored his injuries throughout.
Due to the political turmoil in Maldives, the European Parliament has expressed concern that the country no longer has an environment where judges and lawyers can work independently.
141 people were arrested at Friday’s protest and some have been severely injured by police officers including. The police service has also said that one officer suffered a fracture in the arm during the protest.