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Emergency declared in Maldives

Emergency declared in Maldives

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen on Monday declared a state of emergency following the Supreme Court's decision to release jailed opposition members and reports about possible impeachment motions, the Avas media reported.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

Both developments caused considerable consternation in India, which perceives the Maldives as clearly within its sphere of influence.

The declaration gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain individuals, curtails the powers of the judiciary and bars parliament from impeaching Yameen. Unfazed by opposition's attacks, President Yameen defended himself and wrote letters to Chief Justice to revoke his decision.

Opposition members of parliament meanwhile urged foreign intervention, calling "all necessary measures.to hold government officials accountable for violations of national and worldwide law". He lost the 2013 election to Yameen, then was convicted under Maldives' anti-terrorism laws in a trial widely criticized by global rights groups.

The US National Security Council released a statement on Twitter saying, "The Maldivian government and military must respect the rule of law, freedom of expression, and democratic institutions".

Hundreds of people had gathered outside the courts complex and police used pepper spray to disperse the crowds.

A surprise Supreme Court ruling last week ordering the release of imprisoned opposition leaders has led to growing turmoil, with President Yameen Abdul Gayoom lashing out at the court, opposition protests spilling into the streets of the capital Male, and soldiers in riot gear deployed to the parliament building to stop legislators from meeting.

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Nasheed was barred from contesting any election in the Maldives after a controversial 2015 terrorism conviction which was internationally criticised as politically motivated. He has been in exile since 2016 when he travelled to the United Kingdom for medical treatment and was granted asylum there.

Officials said the president is required to inform the parliament about any declaration of emergency within two days, but the country's legislature has been suspended indefinitely by authorities. "China suggests that Chinese citizens who are preparing to go to the Maldives in the near term to postpone going until the situation on the ground stabilises", said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

That move came two days before a planned protest by Mr Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party.

A defiant government - which has since ordered police and troops to resist any attempt to arrest or impeach Yameen - said the court was not above the law.

"This declaration is unconstitutional and illegal", he said.

The United Nations, Australia, Britain, Canada, India and the USA previously welcomed the court's decision, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the weekend called for "restraint" as the crisis escalated. "Indian expatriates in Maldives are also alerted to the need for heightened security awareness, and urged to exercise due caution in public and avoid public gatherings", the advisory read.

A year ago almost 1.4 million foreign holidaymakers visited the tiny nation of 1,190 coral islets famed for its pristine and secluded beaches.

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