Maldives supreme court annuls own order freeing political prisoners

Representational image

The Indian Ocean archipelago nation has plunged into crisis, with the government led by President Abdulla Yameen imposing a state of emergency for 15 days and arresting Supreme Court judges who ordered the release of leaders of the main opposition party.

Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who's now in exile, has called on nearby India and the U.S.to intervene in the crisis.

In a statement, the judges said they were revoking the order to release the prisoners "in light of the concerns raised by the President".

India issued an advisory to its nationals yesterday, asking them not to undertake non-essential travel to the island nation.

"The President has been compelled to declare a state of emergency due to the risk now posed to national security", the statement from the President's office had said. "We must remove him from power", said Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives, in a statement issued on Tuesday.

His emergency powers also allow him to search and seize property on the honeymoon island and restrict freedom of assembly, with soldiers in riot gear deployed to prevent parliamentary meetings.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court had called for the release of nine imprisoned opposition politicians, ruling that their trials were politically motivated and flawed, setting the stage for the current faceoff.

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The spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was seriously concerned about the declaration of a state of emergency and the entry of security forces into the supreme court premises.

"Government continues to carefully monitor the situation", the statement said.

Under the emergency state Yameen had originally suspended as many as 20 constitutional rights for the duration along with the criminal procedure Act and several articles of the judicature Act.

The UK's Foreign Office said British nationals in the capital, Male, should "exercise caution and avoid any protests or rallies", but that outlying islands and resorts - and the worldwide airport - were not affected.

As part of the crackdown, police also detained Yameen's half-brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled the Maldives for 30 years until 2008 and now stands with the opposition.

Earlier in the day, Yameen said in a televised address that he was left with "no choice" but to declare an emergency in order to hold judges accountable and to "find out how thick this plot, this coup was". India had in 1988 intervened through "Operation Cactus" to save the then President of the Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, from a coup attempt carried out by Sri Lankan Tamil militants on behalf of the Maldivian businessman Abdulla Luthufi.

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