Maldives lifts emergency a day after charging ex-president with terrorism

On March 21, Maldivian authorities charged former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (pictured) and several senior judges with "terrorism" for attempting to topple President Abdulla Yameen.
On March 21, Maldivian authorities charged former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (pictured) and several senior judges with "terrorism" for attempting to topple President Abdulla Yameen.PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO(REUTERS, AFP) - Maldives President Abdulla Yameen lifted a 45-day state of emergency on Thursday (March 22) imposed amid political upheaval on the Indian Ocean island chain.

"Though there still exists a diminished threat to national security, because the nation can now continue without further losses incurred, and upon the advice of the Security Services and in an effort to promote normalcy, the president has decided to lift the state of emergency," his office said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Maldivian authorities charged former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and several senior judges with "terrorism" for attempting to topple President Abdulla Yameen.

Eighty-year-old Gayoom and 10 others - including the sacked chief justice Abdulla Saeed - were charged under state of emergency laws imposed in the paradise tourist island last month.

Mr Yameen declared the laws in February in a bid to prevent himself from being impeached by the national parliament after he lost his majority following a Supreme Court ruling.

The Prosecutor General's office said on Wednesday that Gayoom, who ruled the country for 30 straight years until 2008, had been charged with attempting an "act of terrorism and obstruction of justice".

Gayoom's legislator son Faris Maumoon and son-in-law were also charged, along with another judge.

The 11 are accused of trying to topple Yameen who came to power following a controversial election run-off in November 2013 when he narrowly defeated former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Yameen declared the emergency on February 5, curtailing the powers of the judiciary and the legislature, after the country's Supreme Court ruled to quash criminal convictions against high profile opposition politicians.

The ruling would have allowed Nasheed - who lives in exile in London - to return to the archipelago and challenge Yameen for the presidency.

Mr Yameen refused to carry out the court order and instead arrested the chief justice and another Supreme Court judge.

The remaining judges revoked the earlier decision to release the MPs while Mr Yameen also stripped parliament of its power to impeach him.

He has resisted international calls to end the state of emergency, release all political prisoners and restore the rule of law.

The crackdown has dented the nation's image as a popular tourist destination.