Maldives opposition protesters arrested after court validates emergency rule

MALE (Reuters) - Maldives police have arrested at least another four opposition members under state of emergency laws for protesting against President Abdulla Yameen’s government, the opposition said on Tuesday.

The top court in the Maldives last week validated a 30-day extension of the state of emergency, which was sought by Yameen over what he has called a national security threat and constitutional crisis.

Opposition politicians defied a police order to stop protesting after 10:30 p.m. on Monday (1730 GMT) and continued to demand that Yameen implement a Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders and ordered the release of politicians and officials held in prison.

The Maldivian Democratic Party, the main opposition party, said on Twitter police had arrested Mohamed Ameeth and Abdulla Ahmed, two lawmakers who had defected from Yameen’s party, and two more from other opposition parties late on Monday.

Independent television Raajje TV, which showed footage of police forcibly blocking protesters, said Abdulla Ahmed was arrested while giving a media interview about the protest.

Maldives State Health Minister Dunya Maumoon became the second government minister to resign since the crisis erupted on Feb. 1, saying in a letter on Tuesday she was grieving over the arrest earlier this month of her father, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Yameen’s half-brother and also the island nation’s longest-serving leader. He ruled the Maldives for 30 years until 2008.

Under the emergency, Yameen’s administration arrested Gayoom, the chief justice and another Supreme Court judge on allegations of attempting to overthrow the government.


The United Nations, the United States, the European Union, India and others have all urged Yameen’s government to lift the state of emergency, first declared on Feb. 5 for 15 days, and to release opposition leaders from jail, but it has so far refused.

The Maldives foreign ministry said there was no legal mandate to implement the Supreme Court order, which also included reinstating 12 lawmakers stripped of their parliamentary seats by Yameen’s party for defecting last year.

“The government will ensure that the state of emergency is lifted as soon as the threats posed to national security are addressed satisfactorily,” the ministry said in a statement.

Rights group Amnesty International said in a statement the Maldivian government was using the emergency “as a license for repression, targeting members of civil society, judges and political opponents”.

Tour operators say hundreds of hotel bookings have been canceled daily since the emergency was imposed, despite government assurances that all was normal in Indian Ocean resort islands far from the capital.

The EU threatened the Maldives on Monday with “targeted measures” if the crisis did not improve.

“The Council (representing the member states) condemns politically motivated arrests and calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners,” the EU said in a statement.

“The Council also condemns any interference with the work of the Supreme Court of the Maldives and actions taken against the judiciary and the judges,” it said.

The country’s prosecutor general has said the extension of the state of emergency is unconstitutional because parliament lacked the required quorum when it voted last week.

However, the three-judge Supreme Court, which is functioning without a chief justice, said late on Monday the parliamentary vote on the extension was valid.

Yameen has also fired two police chiefs who said they would uphold the court’s rulings. His government retains a majority in parliament in the absence of the 12 MPs stripped of their seats.

Additional reporting and writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Paul Tait and Gareth Jones