Maldives declares state of emergency: Former president, Supreme Court judges arrested

A Maldives policeman charges with baton towards protesters

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen called a state of emergency on Monday and ordered soldiers to arrest his 80-year-old predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his estranged half brother, who supported the main political opposition.

A statement from the court was issued late Tuesday after President Yameen Abdul Gayoom declared a state of emergency and security forces raided the court building and arrested the two justices.

Earlier on Monday, Yameen said legal conflicts made it hard to comply with a Supreme Court order to free jailed opposition leaders.

On Monday, the Ministry of External Affairs had advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Male or other areas in the Maldives due to the law and order situation. "We must remove him from power".

Back during his presidency, Nasheed had drawn world attention to the Maldives by conducting an underwater cabinet meeting, with the ministers wearing scuba diving suits, to highlight the dangers posed by global warming to low-lying island nations like his own.

The action escalates tensions after the nation's Supreme Court ordered the government to release nine jailed opposition leaders.

Speaking publicly for the first time since last Thursday's Supreme Court order, Yameen said Saturday that he did not expect the court ruling, but that all relevant authorities of the state need to do "a lot of work to see how to implement it".

The opposition leader also urged the U.S. to stop Maldives government officials from making transactions through American banks.

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The President has refused to comply with a court order to release political prisoners, despite growing global pressure and concern.

A statement from the President's Office said the government welcomed the court's revision.

The United Nations, United States and other foreign governments have urged the Maldives to respect the court order.

"Security services must uphold the constitution and serve the Maldivian people", Nasheed tweeted.

"The decision of the Supreme Court of the Maldives to annul criminal proceedings against leading politicians and admit unfair trials against them is a positive step towards restoring the democratic principles in the country", it read.

The state of emergency gives security forces enhanced powers to make arrests, and means public gatherings are banned.

India, China and the United Kingdom have issued travel warnings to the country that is made up of 26 coral atolls and 1,192 individual islands.

The US and European partners have consulted India through the night and Tuesday - in Colombo, Washington DC, London, Brussels - to understand the gravity of the situation, and plan the next steps.

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