Bodufinolhu: Police allege some of the lawyers spreading misinformation, seeks Bar Council probe

Police officers in B. Bodufinolhu on July 3, 2020. (Photo/Maldives Police Service)

Maldives Police Service has made the decision to ask the Bar Council to investigate some of the legal representatives of the 19 workers, who were arrested following a violent strike in B. Bodufinolhu, for legal misconduct, alleging that they were spreading false information, obstructing a police investigation, and tarnishing public faith in the institution.

Disgruntled migrant workers in Bodufinolhu, an island under development as a tourist resort, staged a violent strike over months of unpaid wages on July 2, during which they destroyed property, held local workers hostage and confronted the police.

19 Bangladeshi workers, who the police said were the ringleaders of the violence, were arrested on July 3. They were initially held in custody of the police, but were later transferred to the custody of Maldives Immigration in August.

In a statement on Monday, the police said that some of the lawyers of the 19 workers were falsely blaming the police and spreading misinformation through social media and the press.

The police said that five of the workers were appointed lawyers by the state, while five more were appointed lawyers by Transparency Maldives, and but that some other lawyers were releasing press statements and giving interviews of behalf of all 19 workers, without consulting with the lawyers of the 10 workers.

The police said that Transparency Maldives has also stated that lawyers in question bore no connection to the lawyers appointed by the organization, and has also stated that their lawyers are not facing difficulties due to the police investigation.

The police said that their investigation uncovered some of the lawyers deliberately obstructed the police investigation, attempted to make detainees go on record stating information beyond their knowledge in a manner favorable to a specific party, and coercing the detainees not to speak about the wages they are due and the company which recruited them to work in Bodufinolhu.

The lawyers in question have also been accused of providing misleading information regarding the violence in Bodufinolhu to the press to promote their own narrative, and making accusations regarding the police and other relevant institutions and spread information in violation of investigative findings in order to influence the investigation and achieve specific outcomes.

They have also been accused of mocking the police and stating that the injuries sustained by the police officers in the incident were injuries they sustained when they hit light poles and fell on the group or into the water by fleeing from the workers in fear, and repeatedly behaving in a manner which violates the professional standards lawyers involved in criminal investigations usually practice.

The police said their investigation found the core reason for the violence in Bodufinolhu to be the denial of wages and negligence and carelessness shown by RIX, the contractor of the project in Bodufinolhu, towards the rights of the migrant workers since December 2019. And that the workers themselves stated the denial of wages to be the core reason for the violence, during their remand hearing.

The police said the criminal investigation into the case remains open, and that they are currently liaising with the Prosecutor General’s Office for the duty prosecution process.

The police said they had therefore decided to lodge a case with the Bar Council to investigate the lawyers for legal misconduct.