The supreme court in the Maldives has reversed its decision to free several opposition politicians from prison after the country’s embattled President moved to reassert his authority.
President Abdulla Yameen accused the court of overstepping its authority after the ruling last week, and declared a state of emergency on Monday in a bid to put an end to what he described as “a coup”.
The declaration granted him power to raid the court, where two justices were arrested, while opposition leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, 82, was charged with bribery and attempting to overthrow the government.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the three judges not placed under arrest said they were rescinding the order to free Mr Yameen’s opponents “in light of the concerns raised by the President”.
And in a televised address, Mr Yameen said: “This is not a state of war, epidemic or natural disaster. This is something more dangerous.
“This is an obstruction of the very ability of the state to function.”
His emergency powers also allow him to search and seize property on the honeymoon island and restrict freedom of assembly, with soldiers in riot gear deployed to prevent parliamentary meetings.
Mr Yameen has also taken away parliament’s ability to impeach him.
The crisis comes after five years of roll-backs on a number of democratic reforms in the country, and Mr Yameen’s opponents have said the 58-year-old must be removed from office.
Mr Gayoom – who is the half-brother of Mr Yameen and was president between 1978 and 2008, when the country became a multi-party democracy – urged supporters to “remain steadfast in your resolve”.
“We will not give up on the reform work we are doing,” he added, insisting he had done nothing to deserve arrest.
Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratially elected leader, told Sky News the President’s emergency order was “tantamount to a declaration of martial law”.
Several countries have warned against travel to the island nation, with the Foreign Office advising British holidaymakers there to “exercise caution” and apply “appropriate security precautions”.