February 5, 2018, 10:56 pm
The Maldives government has declared a 15-day state of emergency as political tensions on the island nation continue to intensify.
Legal Affairs Minister Azima Shakoor made the announcement on Monday evening on state television, and a statement attributed to President Abdulla Yameen was posted on the ministry of foreign affairs website.
"The government of Maldives wishes to also assure all Maldivians and the international community that the safety of all Maldivians and foreigners living in and visiting the Maldives will be ensured," the statement said.
The Maldives plunged into political turmoil last week after the country's top court threw out a "terrorism" conviction against its former president Mohamed Nasheed, and ordered the release of other jailed opposition politicians.
The ruling dealt a blow to Yameen with critics accusing him of corruption, misrule, and rights abuses. He denies the allegations.
Earlier Shakoor said: "The government does not believe that the Supreme Court ruling to release the political prisoners can be enforced."
Soldiers in riot gear surrounded the parliament building in the capital Male on Sunday soon after the opposition petitioned parliament to remove the South Asian island's attorney-general and its chief prosecutor.
The opposition now has a majority in the 85-member house as the Supreme Court ruling also reinstated 12 members of parliament who were stripped of their seats last year.
But two of the 12 were arrested at the airport on Sunday, shortly after they returned to the Maldives after spending months in exile.
Opposition members of parliament have urged foreign intervention after the government ignored the Supreme Court ruling.
In a resolution signed in the capital Male on Sunday, opposition MPs called on the international community "to impress upon the government of Maldives the need to respect the rule of law, and implement last Thursday's Supreme Court ruling that ordered the release of political leaders and the reinstatement of 12 opposition MPs".
They also called for "all necessary measures ... to hold government officials accountable for violations of national and international law".
Tensions "could escalate to civil unrest and incite violence across the country", they warned.
The United Nations, European Union, and several foreign governments - including India, the US and UK - have urged Yameen to comply with the Supreme Court's order.
The government has accused the court of trying to oust the president, a claim judges have not responded to.
After the emergency announcement, rights group Amnesty International denounced the government's "appalling track-record of suppressing freedom of expression and any form of opposition".
"This [emergency] cannot become a licence for further repression," Omar Waraich, the group's deputy South Asia director, said on Twitter.