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Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 18:20
Maldives opposition members arrested under emergency laws
By Agencies
Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 18:20 By Agencies

This picture taken on Feb 21, 2018 shows Maldivian police officers detaining an opposition protester (center) demanding the release of political prisoners during a protest in Male. (AHMED SHURAU / AFP)

MALE - The Maldivian Supreme Court has ruled that the parliament's decision to extend a state of emergency by 30 days was valid as it was not constitutionally necessary for more than half of legislators to be present at the time of vote, the President's Office said Tuesday. 

The Supreme Court issued its advisory opinion to the parliament, after a request was made by the legislature as to what quorum was necessary when the extension of State of Emergency was voted on Feb 20. 

The Supreme Court decided that the parliamentary quorum needed at the sitting in question was 25 percent of the total membership of Parliament, as per Article 86 of the Constitution

the President's Office 

When the parliament extended the state of emergency by 30 days, 40 legislators were present in the 85-member chamber while 39 voted in favor of extending the measure. 

The parliament is empowered to seek such advisory opinions by Article 95 of the Constitution, the President's Office said. 

"The Supreme Court decided that the parliamentary quorum needed at the sitting in question was 25 percent of the total membership of Parliament, as per Article 86 of the Constitution," the President's Office said. 

The Maldivian parliament on Feb 20 approved an extension of the state of emergency in the island nation by 30 days following a request by President Abdulla Yameen. 

ALSO READ: State of emergency extended by 30 days in Maldives

The President's Office said the president had requested for the extension as the threat to national security had not diminished following the Supreme Court's ruling ordering the release of detained opposition leaders, including self-exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed. 

President Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency on Feb 5 after the surprise Supreme Court ruling, which was, however, rescinded shortly after the declaration of the state of emergency.  

Maldives police arrested at least another four opposition members under state of emergency laws for protesting against President Abdulla Yameen's government, the opposition said. 

Opposition politicians defied a police order to stop protesting after 10.30 pm local time on Monday (1730 GMT) and continued to demand that Yameen implement the court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders and ordered the release of politicians and officials held in prison. 

The Maldivian Democratic Party, the main opposition party, said on Twitter police had arrested Mohamed Ameeth and Abdulla Ahmed, two lawmakers who had defected from Yameen's party, and two more from other opposition parties late on Monday. 

READ MORE: Maldives govt says willing to talk with opposition

Independent television Raajje TV, which showed footage of police forcibly blocking protesters, said Abdulla Ahmed was arrested while giving a media interview about the protest. 

The Council of the European Union threatened the Maldives on Monday with "targeted measures" if the crisis did not improve. 

"The Council condemns politically motivated arrests and calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners," the EU said in a statement. 

"The Council also condemns any interference with the work of the Supreme Court of the Maldives and actions taken against the judiciary and the judges," it said. 

 The Maldives foreign ministry said in a statement there was no legal mandate to implement the Supreme Court order, which also included reinstating 12 lawmakers stripped of their parliamentary seats by Yameen's party for defecting last year. 

"The government will ensure that the state of emergency is lifted as soon as the threats posed to national security are addressed satisfactorily," the statement said. 

DIFFICULT STEPS 

Countries including the United States, Canada, and neighbouring India, along with the United Nations, have urged Yameen to lift the emergency. 

Tour operators say hundreds of hotel bookings have been cancelled daily since the emergency was imposed, despite government assurances that all was normal in Indian Ocean resort islands far from the capital. 

The government said in a statement on Monday it had to take difficult steps to safeguard the constitution and ensure that civil and political rights were protected. 

The prosecutor general has said the extension of the state of emergency was unconstitutional because parliament did not have the required quorum when it voted last week. 

However, the three-judge Supreme Court, which is functioning without a chief justice, said late on Monday the parliamentary vote on the extension was valid. 

Under the emergency, Yameen's administration has arrested the chief justice, another Supreme Court judge and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on allegations of attempting to overthrow the government. 

Yameen has also fired two police chiefs who said they would uphold the court's rulings. His government retains a majority in parliament in the absence of the 12 MPs stripped of their seats.


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