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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Fourth Maldives prisoner dies
Election Commission headquarters in Male
The Election Commission building was torched in the riots
Another prisoner has died following clashes in a Maldives prison last week that sparked rioting in the capital Male.

The prisoner died on Thursday in a hospital in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, bringing the death toll in the clashes to four.

News of the death came hours after President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said he was moving his police chief to another post.

The president's office said Mr Gayoom had telephoned the parents of the latest victim to offer his condolences.

Anti-government riots broke out in Male last Saturday following two deaths in custody, targeting government buildings, electoral offices and vehicles.

The police and the security forces appear to be arresting anyone who was seen during the riots and anyone who was caught on camera
'Rosa', Maldives

The London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, said the rioting had been provoked by the government's systematic political repression and called for reform of the judicial system.

The Maldives Government denounced the Amnesty report as a "deliberate attempt" to misrepresent its human rights practices which it says are exemplary.

Further arrests

Mr Gayoom's office said on Friday that he had expressed his condolences to the parents of the latest victim, Ali Aslam, who died in Colombo of gunshot wounds.

On Thursday Mr Gayoom said he had removed Brigadier Adam Zahir from his posts of deputy chief of staff of the National Security Service (NSS) and commissioner of police.

Brigadier Zahir has now been appointed executive director at the Ministry of Information, Arts and Culture.

MALDIVES BASICS
Maldives
1,200 islands in archipelago
Population is over 300,000
Majority is Sunni Muslim
One-party rule since 1978
Low-lying islands vulnerable to rise in sea-levels

The office said on Thursday that Mr Gayoom had ordered the arrest of six more members of the NSS, raising to 11 the number of security personnel held over the killing of inmates at the capital's Maafushi prison.

Seven prisoners were flown to Sri Lanka after the clashes in Maafushi, two of whom have now died.

About 25 police and security officers were also flown to Sri Lanka for treatment.

Opposition sources say hundreds of people have been detained this week in connection with the protests, but there has been no independent verification of the figures.

Amnesty in its report said the riots were "closely associated with endemic human rights violations" and "underline people's anger caused by the blatant abuse of their human rights".

Increasing opposition

For their part, the Maldivian authorities have denied the unrest was linked to Mr Gayoom's re-election plans.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Mr Gayoom's office says 11 security personnel are now detained

On Thursday, Mr Gayoom, who has been leader since 1978, won parliament's backing to run for an unprecedented sixth term in office.

His candidature must be ratified by the public in a referendum before 11 November.

The BBC's Frances Harrison in nearby Sri Lanka says Mr Gayoom seems to be facing increasing opposition from a younger generation which wants more political freedom to match their economic prosperity.

But the political system meant there was no doubt about which candidate would be nominated for president, she says.

Did you witness any of the disturbances in the Maldives? Send us your comments using the form below. If you have any photos send them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk


A lot of the comments here are from obvious government sympathizers. Naturally the majority cannot say anything because they fear reprisals. Those of you living overseas have no idea of the terror the ordinary people here live under. All they see is day after day of government propaganda and the effects of what happens if you say the most innocent thing that can seem to criticise the President. You see protesters in almost all countries in the world risking imprisonment and worse in the case of countries such as Burma. Yet there are no protesters of any kind in the Maldives. Is it because this really is Xanadu or is it because the fear here is great enough to stifle the tiniest protest? As a citizen I can promise you it is the latter. The country is small and we have seen what happens to dissenters. They get imprisoned and tortured, their families are badly treated and quite a few have died. The riots were simply the effect of things going too far. It was spontaneous and the people involved were just ordinary citizens. It is not surprising at all that a large number were young. More than half the population of Male is under 15 and a large part of the rest between 16 and 25. It must be said that if they were "hardened criminals and drug addicts" then they failed miserably to live up to their reputation because no private property was attacked, nothing was stolen, there was no looting. I just don't understand why the President has to be so brutal. Maldivians are a very easygoing and timid people. It is just nonsense that the need for economic growth makes this brutal repression necessary. Actually this repression helps to support rampant corruption which is much worse for the economy. The Maldivian people now need unbiased reporting by outsiders because no Maldivian is capable of speaking out and surviving. I hope some journalist out there has the courage to investigate and reveal the truth about our glorious republic to the world.
Mahmud Riza, Maldives

I am glad Amnesty is helping the Maldivians to voice our fear and concern and calling the Gayoom administration for reforms. We as Maldivians have no right to question our leaders. I commend BBC for continuing the follow up of these events as we are getting more information from BBC than our local media. I wish you could assign a reporter to cover our election process and tell the world how our leaders remain in power for so long. In 44 yrs of my life, I have seen only two presidents.
Luthfee, Maldives

hi! I am one of the people who saw most of the events that took place in the riot because I was on my way back from hospital when the riot broke out. I never expected such a scene in Maldives and from Maldivians. because we are known for a peace and security and for our kind-heartedness towards each other. but we are also humans so it is not surprising that there could be some black sheep among us. I really praise for our government for the way they handled the situation of not for their excellent decision making in such a circumstance, the situation could have gone worst than we could ever imagined. I would like to say to BBC that you people are using this just for exploitation. and its not right. BBC and Amnesty International kind of groups are in no better position or rather don't have any reasonable right in writing down things that you people do. We here in Maldives do not violate human rights and I don't really know based on what grounds are you people criticising about our so called 'limited democracy' and our criminal justice systems. I think it would be better for you to wash up your radical western democratic systems than to write about things you don't have an idea about. the events that took place here cannot be justified or even slightly accepted in any manner. you people are saying that Maldivian legal and judicial system is too harsh, but I would say that our system is too lenient when it should be harsh. if this event have had happened in another country in your so called western countries the degree would not have been this much. I cannot even predict how many bodies would have been seen lying on the roads. And don't forget that we are peace loving people not like you people who go on to other people's land and carry out terrorism and still talk of abolishing terrorism. That is one thing that cannot be done with you western kafirs on this planet.
Spirit, Maldives

My parents live in the Maldives in the capital. Therefore, due to all the riot news we've been hearing lately I tried to get in touch with them on the phone. For some reason, however, I'm not able to get through. I have this strange feeling that the Government has barred at-least incoming international calls (Because I actually tried calling a good few numbers, to no avail) I really don't know what they're trying to hide??? It's very frustrating for relatives outside the Maldives.
Adam A, UK

I was in a public building that was ransacked by the mob on the said day. We were in the building, what we saw was a group of youngsters who were out of control on a senseless spree. The debris from their stone throwing injured them too. I understand that mistakes were made, which led to the riots and the trouble. However, as a Maldivian I feel that outsiders like the Amnesty should appreciate the fact that they have no right to determine what we should want. What we want is stability. Our daily bread depends on it. Whether we forego a western style democracy to do that is our business. I think the Amnesty should first clean up the backyards of the so called "Western Democracies" - where the rights of certain citizens only matter. But I thank BBC for reporting the incident in a democratic manner. Just don't judge for us. We will do it ourselves.
Mohamed, Maldives

Our company is just opposite to the parliament house, almost all of my office mates left since the management decided to close business till peace is regained. Just as I got out, I saw a huge crowd marching towards the parliament house with large pieces of timber and iron rods...they came and smashed the lights, doors, and were doing all the damage they could to the building, but I could not believe my eyes when they lowered the national flag and set it on fire. This action did not communicate the actual message they thought they were displaying and I don't see any reason why they should protest against the government in such a manner. There is always a better way.
'Disappointed Civilian', Maldives

I was watching the mob on the streets from my house on Saturday night. The crowd was huge, armed with butchers' knives and iron rods... basically anything they could find. Suddenly the police arrived in armoured vehicles, and dropped a smoke bomb right in front of my house. Within minutes the crowds dispersed. A curfew was set for the night and my brother [who lives on a nearby island] was stopped by the police on his way to the ferry terminal and was asked to stay in Male and to stay indoors. Since then the police have been everywhere, questioning everyone on the streets, schools have been closed and even some businesses. Everyone is stopped on the road and asked for their identification and details of where they are going.
Violet, Maldives

For the first time in the modern history of Maldives there was such unrest and mayhem. I saw youngsters burning the High Court building. All the sub-police stations, Office of the Commissioner of elections and the National Conference Centre (Dharubaaruge) were also attacked by mobs. Unfortunately no news of the incident appeared in any of the newspapers. The radio and TV didn't broadcast any.
Ismail Abdulla, Maldives

I saw the riot in progress and have witnessed much of the police's activities that have been going on today [Tuesday]. My friends and I have seen many people being hauled in off the streets in Male by the police and the government's security forces - being dragged out of shops and homes. We have heard that people have been taken away by the police and security forces in the middle of the night, nobody knows where to or under what charge. The police and the security forces appear to be arresting anyone who was seen during the riots and anyone who was caught on camera when the buildings were attacked. The police had cameras during the riots and there were cameras in the buildings that were attacked. My friends last night saw two men being hauled out of their shops and thrown into police vans, just before curfew started. I have also seen many young people being arrested, not hardened criminals as the government claims. Everyone here is very scared of possible government reprisals.
'Rosa', Maldives

Here in the capital Male everything was calm and stable as usual until the afternoon at about 2:00 AM on Saturday [20 September 2003]. It was only a few crowd running around burning and destroying some of the government buildings. No private property was damaged or affected. It is very first time in the current history of Maldives that this kind of a thing happened. People obeyed the request from the president and most had returned home instead, enjoying the scenery.
Rasheed, Maldives

People here have no right to throw stones and fire government buildings. It was almost crazy but the government is doing its best and I am sure they will do it. It's all rumours in here.
Pink, Maldives

The violence first erupted near the hospital when the police refused to let the friends and family of the injured inmates access to the hospital. In a tense situation the police tried to show its macho muscles and this sparked further agitation and unrest. Now three inmates have died due to police brutality.
Ibn Hazm, Maldives

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SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Maldives riots
26 Sep 03  |  Photo Gallery
Profile: President Maumoon Gayoom
25 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Maldives leader set for new term
25 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Amnesty attacks Maldives 'abuse'
24 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Maldives 'had second jail riot'
23 Sep 03  |  South Asia
'Arrests' after Maldives riots
22 Sep 03  |  South Asia


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