Maldives lifts state of emergency with dissidents locked up
AFP – Maldives President Abdulla Yameen lifted a 45-day state of emergency on Thursday, a day after senior political opponents were locked up indefinitely for allegedly trying to topple him last month.
Yameen chose not to extend the draconian laws he had invoked on February 5 following a Supreme Court ruling that threatened to lead to his impeachment.
"Though there still exists a diminished threat to national security… in an effort to promote normalcy, the president has decided to lift the state of emergency," Yameen’s office said in a statement.
The country’s united opposition said lifting the emergency made no practical difference because "Yameen no longer abides by laws and the constitution".
The opposition urged foreign intervention in the Muslim Indian Ocean archipelago of 340,000.
"The opposition calls on the international community for swift action on the Maldives, including the imposition of targeted sanctions against regime officials," they said in a statement.
Yameen initially declared the state of emergency for 15 days after the country’s top court ordered him to free high-profile dissidents from jail.
It was later extended for another 30 days, deepening the political crisis in the country which straddles strategic international shipping lanes.
The dissidents’ release would have paved the way for former leader Mohamed Nasheed to return from self-imposed exile in London and contest presidential elections later this year.
Yameen refused to carry out the court order and instead invoked the emergency which curtailed the powers of the judiciary and the legislature.
He also arrested the chief justice and another Supreme Court judge.
The remaining judges revoked an earlier decision to reinstate 12 MPs who had been sacked for defecting to the opposition while Yameen also stripped parliament of its power to impeach him.
Yameen’s statement Thursday defended the emergency measures, saying they had been precipitated by a "constitutional crisis" created by the two judges.
It added that they had "conspired with political actors… (to) overthrow a lawful government, and whose actions constituted an imminent threat to national security".
Yameen had been widely expected to let the tough laws lapse on Thursday after authorities charged former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and several senior judges with "terrorism" this week.
– ‘Full dictatorship’ –
Nasheed said that Yameen had allowed the emergency to end because he no longer had any need for it.
"He has overrun the judiciary and legislature, arrested hundreds unlawfully and introduced a ‘new normal’ in the #Maldives – full dictatorship," Nasheed said on Twitter.
"We will not give up, we will fight and we will overcome."
In a statement later, he criticised other nations for not intervening to end the political crisis.
"It is sad that the international community has still not got their act together," Nasheed said, accusing the Maldives regime of being a "puppet state controlled by China".
Gayoom, Yameen’s estranged half brother, ruled the country for 30 years before losing to Nasheed in the nation’s first democratic elections in 2008.
The 80-year-old former strongman was arrested earlier last month accused of trying to topple Yameen.
The Prosecutor General’s office said Wednesday that Gayoom had been charged with attempting an "act of terrorism and obstruction of justice".
Gayoom, together with his legislator son Faris Maumoon and sacked chief justice Abdulla Saeed, have been remanded in custody. In total 11 people have been charged.
The Maldives criminal court ordered Gayoom to be remanded until the conclusion of his trial, although it was not immediately clear when the case would commence.
Yameen came to power following a controversial election run-off in November 2013 when he narrowly defeated Nasheed.
His crackdown has dented the nation’s image as a popular tourist destination, which remains vital to its economy.