Maldives, state of emergency: two Supreme Court judges arrested

The highest judicial body had acquitted the former president Mohamed Nasheed of terrorism charges. The 80-year-old former head of state is under house arrest. Parliament sessions are suspended to avoid the impeachment of Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Some constitutional rights suspended.

Malè (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Maldives are in full political crisis. Yesterday, the government decreed a state of emergency that will last for 15 days. Overnight two Supreme Court judges were arrested, Ali Hamid and President Abdulla Saeed, who had taken refuge in the court building to escape threats. A few hours ago there was also news of the house arrest of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the 80 year old step-brother of the current head of state and former president who governed the archipelago in an autocratic way for 30 years (1978-2008), but who sided some time ago with the opposition.

The situation in the Indian Ocean paradise, a favorite destination for western tourism, precipitated last week. On February 1, the supreme court judges - including those arrested - acquitted former president Mohamed Nasheed, leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the first democratically elected president in 2008 of terrorism charges.

Thousands of supporters took to the streets to demand his return from exile and that he run for the upcoming elections at the end of the year. The Court also ordered the release of eight other members of the opposition and reinstatement of 12 MPs, expelled from the ruling party (PPM, Progressive Party of Maldives) for alleged alliance with opponents. With the resumption of 12 seats, the opposition would have reached the legal number of 85 votes to decree the impeachment of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Yesterday, at the reopening of Parliament, the government decided to suspend sessions indefinitely to prevent the vote against Yameen. Yameen had also ordered the removal of the head of the national police who in recent days had invited him to release opponents in prison.

In the government since 2013, the president has maintained a strict surveillance of the powers, controlling judiciary, police and bureaucracy. He suppressed the opposition through the imprisonment or exile of his opponents, including Nasheed who has been living in London since 2016.

Activists and members of the opposition fear that the state of emergency will lead to a restriction of civil and political freedoms. These fears are not entirely unfounded: after the arrest of the supreme court judges, the suspension of Article 48 of the Constitution was ordered. It provides, among the various paragraphs, also the right for the accused to remain silent, to be informed within 24 hours of the grounds for their detention, to be brought before the courts within 24 hours of detention.