In Brief

Maldives declares ‘state of emergency’ over political detainees

Ex-president calls for US intervention as political crisis threatens Indian Ocean island chain

The Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen yesterday declared a 15-day state of emergency in the Indian Ocean nation amid an escalating political crisis over his regime’s detention of political opponents and top judges.

Troops in riot gear surrounded the Maldives Supreme Court, in capital Male, at dawn today and arrested two judges including Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, reports South African broadcaster SABC News. Hours earlier police had arrested former president and opposition leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom - Yameen’s estranged half-brother - at his home in the city, says Time magazine.

The arrests came after the Supreme Court dismissed terrorism convictions against jailed political opponents of Yameen, and quashed the conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives’ first democratically elected leader. Nasheed lives in exile in Britain, Reuters says. 

According to the Financial Times, the Supreme Court’s ruling “paved the way for the exiled opposition leader’s return to the Maldives to contest upcoming elections in which Yameen had expected to run virtually unchallenged”.

Nasheed today called for the US and India to intervene and release the prisoners, and to impose sanctions to curb Yameen’s financial transactions, the BBC reports.

Yameen has called the Supreme Court decision a “plot” and a “coup”.

China has advised tourists to avoid the Indian Ocean archipelago, a popular tourist destination, until tensions subside. The UK Foreign Office issued travel advice that cautions British tourists to avoid protests or rallies in Male, but that says there are no reports that outlying islands, resorts or Male International Airport are affected.

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