Maldives President continues crackdown as Nasheed seeks India's intervention


Male/Colombo, Feb 8: In a widening emergency crackdown, the government of Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen on Wednesday arrested three family members of jailed Supreme Court judge Ali Hameed, even as exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed reiterated his appeal to India to intervene militarily to resolve the Indian Ocean country's deepening crisis.

Following the Supreme Court's unprecedented ruling to free Nasheed and nine other high-profile political prisoners on February 1, President Abdulla Yameen had declared a 15-day state of emergency earlier this week and curbed the powers of the Supreme Court before ordering the arrest of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, Judge Hameed and Judicial Administrator Hassan Saeed. 

According to a family member, the police had taken a younger sibling of Hameed's wife under custody late on Tuesday, before arresting another of her younger siblings and their spouse on Wednesday. The police also raided their residences and seized a laptop on Tuesday night, reported. 

The Maldives Police Service also said they had evidence to show that Chief Justice Saeed, Judge Hameed and the Judicial Administrator had "accepted millions in bribes".

Meanwhile, Judge Hameed was rushed to the hospital early on Wednesday following a cardiac problem, said.

Amid the ongoing turmoil, Nasheed repeated his appeal to India to intervene militarily in the archipelago country, saying that seeking an internal solution to the ongoing crisis could lead to chaos.

He said his countrymen view New Delhi's role "positively" and during the 1988 crisis India were "not occupiers but liberators".

"Saying 'resolve things internally' is akin to asking us to escalate the revolt, which can lead to chaos. Maldivians see India's role positively: in '88 they came, resolved the crisis, and left. They were not occupiers but liberators. This is why Maldivians look to India now," Nasheed said in a tweet.

On Tuesday he had requested from India "a physical presence" and to "send envoy, backed by its military" for the release of judges and political detainees including former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President Abdulla Yameen's half-brother.

The tweet by Nasheed, a friend of India, came as Beijing, in apparent reference to New Delhi, on Wednesday cautioned against outside interference in the Maldives' internal affairs, saying it would "complicate" the situation. 

China also denied allegations that Yameen had its backing and said Beijing follows the principles of non-interference in other countries' domestic affairs.

"The current situation in the Maldives is its internal affair. It should be properly resolved through dialogue and consultation by relevant parties," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

"The international community should play a constructive role based on the (principle of) respecting the sovereignty of the Maldives instead of taking actions that may complicate the current situation," Geng said.

"We hope the relevant parties in the Maldives will resolve the issues through consultation and restore the national stability and social order as soon as possible," he said.

Nasheed, who has been living in self exile in Sri Lanka for the past few months, also accused authorities of ill-treating judge Ali Hameed and sought an immediate release of the judge along with Gayoom. 

"President Gayoom and the Judges must be released immediately. I am told President Gayoom is not taking food, while (jailed Supreme Court) Justice Ali Hameed has been ill treated," he said.

India had in a strong statement said that it is "disturbed" by the situation in the Maldives.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has termed the Maldives state of emergency an "all-out assault on democracy".

"The suspension of several functions of the judiciary and Parliament, and the restrictions on a series of constitutional rights, create a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of the president," said Zeid.

"President Yameen has, to put it bluntly, usurped the authority of the State's rule-of-law institutions and its ability to work independently from the executive," the High Commissioner said. "The Maldives have seen in recent years attacks on political opponents, on journalists, on civil society and human right defenders, and what is happening now is tantamount to an all-out assault on democracy."

He called on the Maldives Government to lift the State of Emergency immediately, to respect the institutions and their competencies as provided for in the Constitution, and to respect the fundamental rights of all people and the rule of law, in line with the Maldives' obligations under international human rights law, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Meanwhile, the Maldives High Commission in India said in a statement that it was committed to ensuring the safety of all residents in the Indian Ocean nation irrespective of nationality.

It said that "the situation in Maldives remains stable and the state of emergency does not force any restriction on movement in the country." 

"All international airports... and all domestic airports, sea plane operations, tourist resorts, all allied tourism related infrastructure, schools and banks are operating under normal conditions," the statement added.

The European Union (EU) also called for the lifting of the state of emergency in the country.


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