Maldives' top judge arrested as crisis deepens
The Maldives’ top judge was arrested yesterday as security forces stormed the Supreme Court at dawn, after President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency in the honeymoon islands.
The detention of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another Supreme Court judge dramatically raised the stakes after Yameen refused to comply with the court’s order to release political dissidents.
It was the latest twist in a political battle that has plunged the tiny Indian Ocean nation into crisis.
Several countries have warned against travel to the upmarket holiday paradise, which depends heavily on tourism, at the peak of the season.
Yameen, facing threats from a galvanized political opposition to impeach him for alleged corruption, ordered a shutdown of parliament.
In a televised address to the nation, he accused the judges of being part of a plot to overthrow him.
“I had to declare a national emergency because there was no other way to investigate these judges,” he said. “We had to find out how thick the plot or coup was.”
Yameen has left almost all the political opposition jailed since he came to power in 2013.
On Monday he ordered the arrest of his estranged half-brother and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had sided with the main opposition.
The 80-year-old — president for 30 years until the country’s first elections in 2008 — was taken from his home in the capital Male around midnight on Monday, hours after the government announced a 15-day state of emergency.
“I have not done anything to be arrested,” Gayoom said in a video message to supporters posted on Twitter.
“I urge you to remain steadfast in your resolve too. We will not give up on the reform work we are doing.”
The exiled leader of the Maldives opposition, Mohamed Nasheed, accused Yameen of acting illegally and called on the US and India to step in and help remove him from office.
“President Yameen has illegally declared martial law and overrun the state. We must remove him from power,” said Nasheed in a statement issued yesterday.
“We would like the Indian government to send an envoy, backed by its military, to free the judges and the political detainees.”
Nasheed was jailed in 2015 after he was convicted on a terrorism charge. He has been in exile since 2016 when he traveled to the UK for medical treatment and was granted asylum there.
He has accused Yameen of corruption and pledged to return from exile and run for president in elections due to be held later this year, after the Supreme Court last week quashed his terrorism conviction.
The judges also ordered the government to restore the seats of 12 legislators sacked for defecting from Yameen’s party.
Yameen, who has faced several unsuccessful opposition attempts to impeach him for alleged corruption, responded by shuttering parliament before moving late Monday to impose a state of emergency.