Political crisis deepened in Maldives after President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency late on Monday. Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another Supreme Court judge were arrested hours after the imposition of emergency.
The state police said both judges were under investigation for corruption and that the court’s top administrator had also been detained.
The political developments in the island nation triggered after its Supreme Court’s last week order directing the immediate release and retrial of political prisoners, including former President Mohammad Nasheed.
Washington too reacted to the developments, saying it is “troubled” and “disappointed” and urged President Abdulla Yameen to comply with the rule of law and implement the Supreme Court ruling.
Yameen has presided over an escalating crackdown on dissent that has battered the image of the upmarket holiday paradise, and left almost all the political opposition jailed since he came to power in 2013.
Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had sided with the main opposition, too has been arrested after the imposition of emergency.
The 80-year-old — president for 30 years until the country’s first democratic elections in 2008 — was taken from his home in the capital Male around midnight on Monday, according to a tweet from his daughter Yumna Maumoon.
“I have not done anything to be arrested,” Gayoom said in a video message to supporters posted on Twitter, adding “I urge you to remain steadfast in your resolve too. We will not give up on the reform work we are doing.”
Heavily armed troops and police special operations units stormed the Supreme Court in the early hours, the court said on Twitter, as police used pepper spray to disperse hundreds of people gathered outside.
After court’s last week order, which included an order for the government to restore the seats of 12 legislators sacked for defecting from Yameen’s party, has effectively shot up the opposition’s strength. With the numbers on their side, they could now potentially impeach the president.
But the government, which has ordered police and troops to resist any attempt to arrest or impeach Yameen, said the court was not above the law.
“The Supreme Court ruling stands in defiance of the highest authority in the country: the constitution,” spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab said in a statement. “The Supreme Court must remember that it too is bound by law,” he said.
The government spokesperson, however, said the government would “facilitate calm” and ensure the safety of all citizens and tourists “throughout this unusual period”.
The court’s decision also paved the way for exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed — the nation’s first democratically elected leader who was controversially convicted of terrorism in 2015 — to run for president this year.
(With inputs from Agencies)