Maldives crisis deepens: President Abdulla Yameen declares emergency, defies SC order to free jailed opponents

Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen has declared a state of emergency in the country on Monday, a few days after the island nation was plunged deeper into a crisis caused by Yameen’s refusal to obey a Supreme Court court order to free jailed opponents.

File image of Maldives President Abdulla Yameen. Reuters

File image of Maldives president Abdulla Yameen. Reuters

The beleaguered Maldivian president has declared a 15-day state of emergency, his aide Azima Shukoor announced on state television on Monday. Shukoor read out the declaration shortly after Yameen sent three letters to the judges asking them to reverse their decision. According to AFP, the move gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects and comes amid a deepening political crisis in the Indian Ocean nation.

The Maldivian Supreme Court had on Thursday ordered the immediate release of former president Mohamed Nasheed and eight other opposition leaders, saying their trials had violated the constitution and international law — but it also ordered new trials. The Maldives president has since fired his second police chief in three days, making the opposition fear that he was resisting the verdict and that it would lead to violence in the nation.

In a letter addressed to the international community, Maldives opposition lawmakers appealed for external support in persuading Yameen to end the tense standoff with the country's highest court. "We request the international community, including India, Sri Lanka, the US, Britain, the EU... to do everything in their power to help return power to the people of the Maldives and restore democracy," the statement read.

Yameen has faced increasing pressure to respect the landmark court ruling, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the weekend calling for "restraint" as the crisis escalated.

Yameen's hesitation to abide by the verdict stems from the fact that the court orders restoration of the seats of 12 government MPs who defected to the opposition, which would effectively reduce Yameen's party to a minority. The opposition having a majority in the 85-member parliament would make the president vulnerable to impeachment.

This is the second time Yameen has declared a state of emergency. He last took the step in November 2015 after an alleged attempt to assassinate him.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar has warned Indian nationals to avoid "non-essential" travel to Male. The ministry said that it was "closely monitoring" the evolving situation in the Maldives.

India had said it was imperative for "all organs" of the Maldivian government to abide by the country's Supreme Court order to release all political prisoners "in the spirit of democracy". In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it hoped that the safety and security of Indian expatriates in the island nation would be ensured by the Maldivian authorities under "all circumstances".

"We have seen last night’s order of the Supreme Court of Maldives releasing all political prisoners. In the spirit of democracy and rule of law, it is imperative for all organs of the Government of Maldives to respect and abide by the order of the apex court," MEA had said.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Feb 05, 2018 22:39 PM

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