Maldives police arrest 25 after protest demanding leader's arrest

MALE (Reuters) - Maldives police arrested 25 people under a state of emergency, opposition legislators said on Saturday, after thousands of protesters gathered a day earlier to call for the detention of the president and release of opposition leaders.

Maldivian Police officers push back the opposition supporters near the main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) headquarters during a protest demanding the government to release jailed opposition leaders, including former Presidents Mohamed Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in line with a last week Supreme Court order, in Male, Maldives February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, best known for its luxury hotels and dive resorts, imposed a 15-day state of emergency on Feb. 5 to annul a Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of nine leading opposition figures.

Shortly after imposing the state of emergency, President Abdulla Yameen’s administration arrested two Supreme Court judges and detained former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on allegations that he solicited bribes to topple the government.

Thousands gathered in locations across the 15 islands in protest on Friday to demand the arrest of the president and the enforcement of the court ruling to free the opposition leaders.

Ahmed Mahloof, a legislator from the main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), told Reuters 25 people, including two journalists, had been detained, based on numbers gathered via the party’s telephone hotline.

“Police have so far refused to tell us how many were arrested. We don’t have any access to them,” he said. “We don’t know where they are being held. Police has said they are arrested under state of emergency and that they don’t have to give the information.”

Raajee TV, an independent media outlet, said police had attacked journalists covering the Friday’s protests and said one had been treated for injuries.

Police declined to comment on any arrests or other incidents related to the protest, which was the latest in a series of demonstrations against Yameen’s government.

Police told hundreds of protesters near the Artificial Beach area of Male that demonstrations were prohibited in the capital, drawing boos from the crowd. Police dispersed the rally using pepper spray and detained several protesters, a witness said.

Police also closed down the main MDP campaign office near Artificial Beach, the opposition said.

Demonstrators later gather in two other locations of Male, before being police dispersed them and made several further arrests, the witness said.

Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Edmund Blair