The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday said it is closely monitoring the situation in Maldives, whose Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the immediate release of exiled former leader Mohamed Nasheed and eight others, AP reported. The court also said their trials violated the constitution and international law.

“In the spirit of democracy and rule of law, it is imperative for all organs of the government of Maldives to respect and abide by the order of the apex court,” the External Affairs ministry said.

The government of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, meanwhile, said that it was in discussions with the Supreme Court and the validity of the ruling is yet to be decided, Rajje TV reported.

Defence Minister Adam Shareef said the island nation was in a “volatile” situation that posed “a risk to national security”. He asked for the support of law-enforcement officers after the police initially announced they would enforce the ruling. Attorney General Mohamed Anil sacked Police Commissioner Ahmed Areef, making the announcement at a late-night press conference, BBC reported.

The police on Thursday night fired tear gas at opposition supporters, who took to the streets of the capital city Male to celebrate the verdict. “We will use force and will not be responsible for any damage inflicted by using force,” Maldives Independent quoted the police as saying. People were reportedly manhandled and led away by police officers.

Political turmoil

Nasheed, who is Maldives’ first democratically elected president, is President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s main rival. Gayoom, the half brother of the country’s former leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, will seek re-election later this year.

Nasheed had resigned in 2012 after massive public protests against his decision to arrest a senior judge. In 2013, he lost the presidential election to Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Two years later, Nasheed was handed a 13-year prison sentence for ordering the judge’s arrest. But, he later fled to Britain,where he received asylum.

Most of the president’s other political rivals, who had not gone in exile, were also jailed. Yameen Abdul Gayoom, however, had a fallout with Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Eight ruling party lawmakers loyal to the latter defected in March 2017, saying they would work with Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party to stop the president.

In August 2017, the Opposition had claimed that the security forces locked down Parliament on Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s order to stop them from attempting to impeach the speaker, who is an ally of the president.