Maldives declares 15-day state of emergency amid crisis

Mohamed Nasheed has vowed to return

AFP GETTYMohamed Nasheed has vowed to return

A Supreme Court statement on Sunday said "there are no obstacles in implementing the ruling. and that this has been informed to the Prosecutor General's office".

Article 253 of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives [text, PDF] provides the country's president with the power to declare a state of emergency in the event of a national security threat in all or part of the country for a period not exceeding thirty days.

In 1988, Sri Lankan militants working for a Maldivian businessman tried to take control of the country and seized control of many government buildings.

The president's main rival urged people not to obey what he called an "unlawful order".

The ruling may allow Nasheed, who was the nation's first democratically elected President, to challenge Yameen when he seeks re-election later this year. "The Supreme Court verdict, in a way, means transfer of power", said a leader from MDP, which is led by Nasheed.

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"During this time, though certain rights will be restricted, general movements, services and businesses will not be affected", a statement issued by the president's office said.

"America stands with the people of Maldives", The National Security Council said in a tweet.

This was despite an appeal by countries like India and the U.S., besides the European Union and the United Nations, urging Yameen's government to follow the court ruling.

The government of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has moved to assert its power since the Supreme Court ordered several imprisoned opposition politicians to be freed late last week.

Soon after the declaration, security forces stormed into the Supreme Court building, where Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and judge Ali Hamid were arrested. The political uncertainty has coincided with growing Chinese influence in the island nation.

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The ruling has led to protests by opposition supporters urging the government to obey the order. India may have to respond to calls from the Maldives' opposition to intervene, but in doing so, it will have to tread lightly so that it is not seen as taking sides. When those lawmakers return, Yameen's Progressive Party of the Maldives will lose its majority in the 85-member parliament, which can result in the legislative body functioning as a rival power to the president.

"President Yameen has systematically alienated his coalition, jailed or exiled every major opposition political figure, deprived elected Members of Parliament of their right to represent their voters in the legislature, revised laws to erode human rights. and weakened the institutions of government", the State Department said in a statement. He was given political asylum in the United Kingdom in 2016.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is the half-brother of the current President, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, and ruled the country for 30 years until 2008.

Yameen has cracked down on civil liberties since coming to power in 2013, imprisoning or forcing into exile almost every politician who opposes him. The move prompted Nasheed, now in self-exile, to say he would return to contest elections that are expected to be held later this year.

Nasheed was barred from contesting any election in the Maldives after a controversial 2015 terrorism conviction internationally criticised as politically motivated.

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