Back then people spent months, even years, in detention centres without trial. Many of them would have incurred Gayoom's wrath by criticising his regime; somehow, someone would have heard them and carried tales to one of his brothers-in law. I know a woman who was taken in for questioning by police for switching off the television while Gayoom was on air.
Then there are the tales of torture. People were beaten, hung, leaves tied round them and tied to chairs inside goat sties. There were those that had their backbones broken, even killed. One of Gayoom's classmates, Ahmed Adam, who claimed some of the dictator's children were conceived out of wedlock, found himself in jail and languished there for years to suffer the most horrific torture imaginable. A hearty, robust man when he went in, he was reduced to a cripple when they were done with him. Adam died soon after he was released from prison.
And let's not forget Ahmed Waheed, who wrote scathing articles about Gayoom in the 1990s weekly Hukuru, banned by the dictator months after it came out. Nobody knows quite what they did to Waheed, but whatever it was was so terrible that he's stopped talking to people. The former writer and TV producer can be still be seen hanging out in Ameeni Magu and the south seawall in Machchangolhi, immersed in a strange, autistic-like state.
Witnessing Gayoom leave the police headquarters an hour or so after he went in, I'm thankful that things are not the same now and that the erstwhile dictator didn't have to suffer any of what his critics suffered in the not too distant past.