Opposition protesters demand release of ex-president Yameen
Supporters of former president Abdulla Yameen protested in Malé on Wednesday night, demanding the release of the opposition leader after he was detained for a money laundering trial.
Yameen is accused of laundering US$1 million transferred to his account by a company implicated in the country’s biggest corruption scandal. The criminal court ordered Yameen to be taken into custody after prosecutors submitted evidence of an alleged attempt to bribe witnesses and tamper with evidence.
On Wednesday evening, Yameen was brought to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in the capital for a consultation with cardiac doctors, who decided to keep him under observation for 24 hours.
Police officers used pepper spray against opposition supporters who protested inside IGMH in violation of the freedom of assembly law.
In a statement Thursday, police said pepper spray was used against unruly protesters who tried to barge into the cardiology centre.
Photos emerged on social media showing opposition lawmakers Ahmed Nihan and Abdul Raheem Abdulla among those affected by the pepper spray.
In the face of accusations of police brutality, acting police chief Mohamed Hameed assured that internal mechanisms to review the use of force would be activated.
Later on Wednesday night, Yameen’s supporters gathered at the carnival area in the capital for a protest demanding his release. Protesters also condemned the police for using pepper spray inside the hospital.
The 2013 law was revised to restrict protests and gatherings in the capital to the carnival area in Malé’s eastern waterfront.
Protesters accused the government of mistreating the former president and called the jailing an attempt to prevent him from campaigning for the April 6 parliamentary elections.
A video of MP Nihan placing a rock near the wheel of a police vehicle during the protest was meanwhile widely shared on social media. The incident is under investigation, police said.
Following his arrest Yameen was detained at the special protection unit of Maafushi prison, which has air-conditioned and furnished rooms with amenities, a corridor and a backyard. The unit was previously used to house high-profile prisoners jailed during Yameen’s five-year term. According to the prisons authority, detainees at the unit have access to newspapers and their health is closely monitored.