February 6, 2018, 9:10 am
The Maldives government declared a 15-day state of emergency Monday as the political crisis deepened in the Indian Ocean nation amid an increasingly bitter standoff between the president and the Supreme Court.
Hours after the emergency was declared, soldiers forced their way into the Supreme Court building, where the judges were believed to be taking shelter, said Ahmed Maloof, an opposition member of Parliament.
A surprise Supreme Court ruling last week ordering the release of imprisoned opposition leaders has led to growing turmoil, with President Yameen Abdul Gayoom lashing out at the court, opposition protests spilling into the streets of the capital, Male, and soldiers in riot gear deployed to the parliament building to stop lawmakers from meeting.
The emergency decree gives the government sweeping powers to make arrests, search and seize property and restricts freedom of assembly, officials said.
Hours after it was declared, the soldiers forced their way into the court building, Maloof said. The government did not immediately comment on soldiers going inside the building.
The president's main rival urged people not to obey what he called an "unlawful order."
"This declaration is unconstitutional and illegal," former President Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, said in a statement. Nasheed, who lives in exile, was one of the opposition leaders that the court ordered freed.
Yameen in a statement issued after the state of emergency was announced on state television said that "during this time though certain rights will be restricted, general movements, services and businesses will not be affected."
Yameen, in a letter to the court released by his office earlier Monday, said the order had encroached on the powers of the state and was an "infringement of national security and public interest." He urged the court to "review the concerns" of the government.