The Supreme Court of Maldives on Tuesday revoked its order to free nine political prisoners, a day after President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom declared a state of emergency for 15 days and arrested two judges, including Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed. The remaining three judges of the Supreme Court said they were withdrawing their earlier order “in light of the concerns raised by the president”, AFP reported.
Earlier in the day, the president claimed that the Supreme Court judges were plotting to overthrow him. “I had to declare a national emergency because there was no other way to investigate these judges,” Gayoom said in a televised address to the nation, according to PTI. “We had to find out how thick the plot or coup was,” he said.
He also accused the chief justice of trying to illegally impeach him and have the attorney general sacked.
On February 1, the Supreme Court had ordered the government to revoke terrorism charges against nine Opposition leaders, including exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed. But the government had maintained that it would oppose any order by the top court to arrest or impeach President Gayoom. It claimed the Supreme Court was obstructing the government from carrying out its responsibilities.
On Saturday, President Gayoom had said he was ready to hold early presidential elections to allow voters to decide who should lead their country. Gayoom, the half-brother of the country’s former leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has crushed the Opposition in the Maldives by targeting high-profile leaders.
The country’s first democratically-elected President Mohamed Nasheed was jailed in 2013 for ordering the arrest of a senior judge. Nasheed later fled to Britain and received asylum. He now lives in Sri Lanka. Most of President Gayoom’s other political rivals, who had not gone in exile, were jailed. The president also had a fallout with his half-brother, and lawmakers loyal to him have now joined forces with Nasheed against the president.