Maldives crisis: Govt defies top court order; Will not release Oppn leaders

RSTV Bureau
FILE: File Photo of President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen. Photo - PTI

FILE: File Photo of President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen.
Photo – PTI

The Maldives’ government has refused to enforce a Supreme Court order which sought the release and retrial of political prisoners, including an ex-president Mohammed Nasheed. The Maldives top court had last week said in its order that the dissident political leaders’ guilty verdicts had been politically influenced.

The court ruling had led to protests by opposition supporters urging the government to obey the order. Clashes erupted between police and the political opponents on Thursday and Friday.

On Monday, Maldives Legal Affairs Minister Azima Shakoor said that “the government does not believe that the Supreme Court ruling to release the political prisoners can be enforced.”

Soon after the verdict last week, the government had expressed “concerns” over the judicial order and resisted complying with it, but the court said there can be no excuses. “There is nothing preventing the prosecutor general from seeking a re-trial after the order has been implemented (and prisoners released),” the court had said in its order.

Thursday’s order to restore the seats of 12 government MPs who defected to the opposition would effectively reduce Yameen’s party to a minority and expose him to the risk of impeachment.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said its MPs tried to stage a meeting in defiance of a weekend order suspending parliament, but they were pushed back by armed troops.

FILE: File photo of former President of Maldives Mohammed Nasheed.  Photo - PTI

FILE: File photo of former President of Maldives Mohammed Nasheed.
Photo – PTI

Former president and current opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed described the government’s refusal to obey the Supreme Court as a “coup”. Nasheed, who was controversially convicted of a terrorism charge and jailed for 13 years in 2015, urged police and troops to uphold the constitution.

Security forces have been deployed inside the national parliament – known as the People’s Majlis – since March last year when Yameen ordered them to evict dissident lawmakers.

The president’s crackdown on dissent has tarnished the Maldives’ image as an upmarket holiday paradise and sparked calls from the United Nations and several countries to restore the rule of law in the fledgling democracy.

Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader, was toppled in 2012. He was barred from contesting elections after his 2015 terrorism conviction, which was internationally criticised as politically motivated.

He has been in exile since 2016, when he left on prison leave for medical treatment. He is currently in Colombo, meeting Maldivian dissidents based in Sri Lanka.

(With inputs from PTI)