Chief justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge, Ali Hameed, were arrested after President Yameen declared a state of emergency on Monday. In a late night development, the remaining three judges of the Supreme Court amended an order to release nine high- profile political prisoners.
In a statement, the judges said they were revoking the order to release the prisoners “in light of the concerns raised by the President". The amendment to the ruling by the Supreme Court on 1 February also omits the part that says the case against the Supreme Court judges was not received by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).
Earlier today, President Yameen accused the detained judges of plotting to overthrow him. “I had to declare a national emergency because there was no other way to investigate these judges," Yameen said in a televised address to the nation.
“We had to find out how thick the plot or coup was," he said, adding that the chief justice was trying to illegally impeach him and sack the attorney general.
Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has allied himself with the opposition, was also detained at his home.
Concerned over political turmoil in Maldives, India, which is monitoring the situation very “closely", on Tuesday said it was “disturbed" on the declaration of the emergency by the Maldivian government and described as a matter of “concern" the arrests of the chief justice and political figures there. “We are disturbed by the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Maldives following the refusal of the government to abide by the unanimous ruling of the full bench of the Supreme Court on 1 February, and also by the suspension of constitutional rights of the people of Maldives," the ministry of external affairs said in a statement in New Delhi.
“The arrest of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and political figures are also reasons for concern," it added. India on Monday asked its nationals not to undertake non- essential travels to the island nation until further notice.
Nasheed, whose Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) functions from Colombo, appealed for India’s help. “We would like the Indian government to send an envoy, backed by its military, to free the judges and the political detainees, including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, from their detention and to bring them to their homes. We are asking for a physical presence," Nasheed said in his tweet.
The picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago, which has seen a number of political crisis since the ouster of its first democratically-elected president Nasheed in 2012, plunged into a political chaos on Thursday when the apex court ordered the release of nine imprisoned opposition politicians, maintaining that their trials were “politically motivated and flawed".
The nine political leaders included Nasheed.
The Yameen government refused to implement the ruling, prompting a wave of protests in Maldives capital, Male. Nasheed said Yameen has illegally declared martial law. “President Yameen’s announcement — which declares a state of emergency, the banning of fundamental freedoms, and the suspension of the Supreme Court— is tantamount to a declaration of martial law in the Maldives. This declaration is unconstitutional and illegal. Nobody in the Maldives is required to, nor should, follow this unlawful order," he said.
“We must remove him from power. The people of the Maldives have a legitimate request to world governments, especially to India and the United States," said Nasheed, who is currently in Sri Lanka.
He also asked the US to ensure that all American financial institutions stop all transactions of the Yameen regime’s leaders.
Meanwhile, Jumhooree Party Leader Qasim Ibrahim’s son Ibrahim Siyaad Qasim has been arrested. He is the managing director of Villa Shipping and Trade, the Maldives largest private conglomerate company.
Reacting to these developments, the US on Tuesday said it was “troubled" and “disappointed" by the declaration of a state of emergency by Yameen and asked him to comply with the rule of law and implement the Supreme Court ruling.
“The US calls on President Yameen, the army, and police to comply with the rule of law, implement the Supreme Court ruling and the rulings of the criminal court, ensure the full and proper functioning of the Parliament, and restore constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people and institutions of the Maldives," state department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in Washington.
Earlier, Nasheed also expressed concern over Yameen’s deliberate delay in implementing the Supreme Court ruling to immediately release political prisoners. “This deliberate refusal by the government to uphold the Constitution further destabilises the Maldives and wider Indian Ocean security," Nasheed said.
Nasheed, 50, the country’s first democratically-elected leader—was sentenced to 13 years in jail on terror charges in March 2015 over the arbitrary arrest of chief criminal judge Abdullah Muhammed during his presidency.
He was granted asylum in the UK after he was authorized to seek medical treatment there amid mounting foreign pressure. Nasheed was narrowly defeated in 2013 by President Yameen.
Nasheed says his conviction on terror charges was politically motivated. The Maldivian government holds that Nasheed is convicted for a crime and is wanted in the Maldives to serve a jail sentence. Nasheed said he will seek UN support to ensure he is allowed to contest this year’s election.
Meanwhile, the ministry of foreign affairs in Maldives reportedly said there were no safety issues for foreign nationals working in the country or tourists after India and China issued travel advisory for their nationals.