COLOMBO – The chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Maldives and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were in custody on Tuesday after their overnight arrest by the country’s police.
The current president Abdulla Yameen, also Gayoom’s half-brother, on Monday declared a state of emergency, saying that a Supreme Court ruling that overturned alleged terrorism sentences against several of his opponents was illegal.
Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Gayoom, who ruled from 1978 to 2008, were arrested shortly after the 15-day long emergency was declared.
“Regime finally broke all legal & democratic rules by terrorising SC & illegally arresting CJ & Justice Ali & ex-Prez @maumoonagayoom One of the darkest hours in our modern history. Time for people to defend judges & Intl Community to take strict action against the dictator,” tweeted former Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.
“A large number of @PoliceMv around my residence. To protect me or to arrest me? No idea,” tweeted Gayoom shortly before his arrest.
Saeed was arrested inside the Supreme Court, along with Judge Ali Hameed and Judicial Administrator Hassan Saeed, although the charges against them have not yet been revealed.
The Maldives Police Service confirmed the arrest of Hameed on Twitter, in relation to an investigation allegedly still undergoing.
“@PoliceMv have also arrested Pres. @maumoonagayoom son-in-law Mohamed Nadeem on the same charges: bribery of MPs, attempted bribery, & attempting to unlawfully overthrow the government,” tweeted Gayoom’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed.
“Despite the declaration of the state of emergency, there will be no enforcement of a curfew; and general movements, services and businesses will not be affected,” said a statement by the President’s Office on Monday.
The decision comes only days after the Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the sentences against nine opposition members, ordering a new trial and the release of those jailed, considering that the sentences were politically motivated and delivered by judges who were unduly influenced.
Yameen, in a letter sent to the Supreme Court, urged it to review its order, as it could potentially undermine the legitimacy of the country’s constitution.
The accused whose sentences were overturned include Mohamed Nasheed, who now lives in exile in London, the country’s first democratically elected president, who was sentenced for the illegal arrest of a judge during his term.