Maldives President Declares State of Emergency

MNDF chief Major General Ahmed Shiyam renewed oaths of both Police and army batches on Sunday

MNDF chief Major General Ahmed Shiyam renewed oaths of both Police and army batches on Sunday

The island nation has plunged into fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was arrested by a special Maldivian Police team in the early hours of Tuesday, hours after President Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency, local media reported.

In addition to ordering the release of the political prisoners, the court also reinstated 12 politicians who had been ousted for switching allegiance to the opposition.

Soldiers have occupied the parliament building to stop legislators from entering.

Lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof said opposition lawmakers would try to meet in parliament even though the scheduled opening of the sessions for the year has been postponed indefinitely.

But the Ministry of Tourism said the state of emergency does not "force any restrictions on travelling to or within the Maldives". A Supreme Court statement on Sunday said "there are no obstacles in implementing the ruling. and that this has been informed to the Prosecutor General's office".

In recent years, Yameen has seemingly aligned the Maldives closer to China-signing up for China's ambitious Maritime Silk Route project aiming to connect Asia and Africa through the Indian Ocean with a series of ports and other infrastructure projects to promote trade. No reason was given for the dismissal.

The Supreme Court ruled that the politicians' guilty verdicts had been politically influenced. His predecessor Ahmed Areef was sacked on Thursday, shortly after he said he will honour the court's decision.

This was despite an appeal by countries like India and the USA, besides the European Union and the United Nations, urging Yameen's government to follow the court ruling.

In a letter to the court released by the President's office, Yameen said the court's order to release prisoners had encroached on the powers of the state and was an "infringement of national security and public interest". They then moved to another location for a sit-in protest that was also broken up.

Security forces "blockaded and locked the Supreme Court building from outside and hence the justices are without any food", Maldives' former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood tweeted.

Known for its luxury tourist resorts, the Maldives became a multi-party democracy 10 years ago after decades of autocratic rule by the current president's half-brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Yameen has cracked down on civil liberties since coming to power in 2013, imprisoning or forcing into exile almost every politician who opposes him. He has maintained a tight grip on power, controlling institutions such as the judiciary and the police.

He had been set to run for re-election this year virtually unopposed, with all of his opponents either jailed or exiled.

"We are deeply fearful that the government's refusal to implement the Supreme Court order could escalate to unrest and incite violence across the country", the opposition said. He lost the 2013 election to Yameen, then was convicted under Maldives' anti-terrorism laws in a trial widely criticized by worldwide rights groups.

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