Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Maldives declares state of emergency amid political standoff

Published:Tuesday | February 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM
AP In this late Sunday, February 4 photo, Maldivian opposition supporters shout slogans during a protest as they the urge the government to obey a Supreme Court order to release and retry political prisoners, including an ex-president in Male, Maldives. The political crisis in the Maldives deepened Monday, as the government of the island nation said it would not obey a Supreme Court order to free a group of imprisoned opposition leaders. Placards in Divehi language from left, to right, read, "protect the citizens , carry out the supreme court's order, free political prisoners and to uphold justice".


The Maldives government declared a 15-day state of emergency yesterday as the political crisis deepened in the Indian Ocean nation amid an increasingly bitter stand-off between the president and the Supreme Court.

A surprise Supreme Court ruling last week ordering the release of imprisoned opposition leaders has led to growing turmoil, with President Yameen Abdul Gayoom lashing out at the court, opposition protests spilling into the streets of the capital, Male, and soldiers in riot gear deployed to the parliament building to stop lawmakers from meeting.

The emergency decree gives the government sweeping powers to make arrests, search and seize property and restricts freedom of assembly, officials said.

The president's main rival urged people not to obey what he called an "unlawful order".

"This declaration is unconstitutional and illegal," former President Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, said in a statement. Nasheed, who lives in exile, was one of the opposition leaders that the court ordered freed.

"During this time, though certain rights will be restricted, general movements, services and businesses will not be affected," Yameen said in a statement issued after the state of emergency was announced on state television.

Yameen, in a letter to the court released by his office earlier yesterday, said the order had encroached on the powers of the state and was an "infringement of national security and public interest". He urged the court to "review the concerns" of the government.

Officials say the court has not properly responded to a series of letters citing problems with implementing the order, including that the cases against the political prisoners are at different legal stages. 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".