The Latest: US slams Maldives state of emergency declaration

MALE, Maldives

MALE, Maldives (AP) — The Latest on turmoil in the Maldives after the Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of political prisoners (all times local):

3:30 a.m.

The United States is strongly criticizing the president of the Maldives for declaring a state of emergency after the Supreme Court ordered the release of imprisoned opposition leaders.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the emergency declared on Monday gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects. It also bans public gatherings and imposes travel restrictions.

Nauert said the U.S. is “is troubled and disappointed” by the developments.

She says president Yameen Abdul Gayoom, has “systematically alienated his coalition, jailed or exiled every major opposition political figure” since his election in 2013.

Nauert called on Yameen, the army, and police to comply with the rule of law, and for the constitutional rights of Maldivians to be restored.

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12:45 a.m.

The lawyer for the Maldives’ former dictator says the now-opposition leader has been arrested.

Maumoon Hameed, the lawyer for Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, said on Twitter that Gayoom has been arrested on charges that include bribery and attempting to overthrow the government.

Gayoom, the half brother of the Maldives’ current president, is now a leader of the political opposition.

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11:55 p.m.

An opposition member of Parliament in the Maldives says soldiers have forced their way into the Supreme Court building where judges are believed to be taking shelter.

Ahmed Maloof said late Monday that the soldiers went hours after the government declared a 15-day state of emergency.

Officials say the emergency decree gives the government sweeping powers to make arrests, search and seize property and restricts freedom of assembly.

The government did not immediately comment on the soldiers going into the court building.

A surprise Supreme Court ruling last week ordering the release of imprisoned opposition leaders has led to growing turmoil.

President Yameen Abdul Gayoom lashed out at the court, opposition protests spilled into the streets of the capital, Male, and soldiers in riot gear deployed to the parliament building to stop lawmakers from meeting.

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8 p.m.

The Maldives government has declared a 15-day state of emergency amid a deepening political crisis between the president and the judiciary over its order to release a group of imprisoned opposition leaders.

Legal Affairs Minister Azima Shakoor announced the state of emergency on state television Monday evening.

A surprise ruling last week by the Supreme Court directing the release of the opposition leaders has led to a tense standoff between President Yameen Abdul Gayoom and the Supreme Court, with protests spilling into the streets of the capital, Male, and soldiers in riot gear deployed to the parliament building to stop lawmakers from meeting.

A former president is among those ordered freed by the court after trials criticized for flawed due process.

Shakoor said earlier Monday that the government doesn’t believe that the court order can be enforced.

Maldives became a multiparty democracy 10 years ago after decades of autocratic rule, but lost many of the democratic gains after Yameen was elected in 2013.

6 p.m.

The political crisis in the Maldives has deepened as the president of the island nation said the Supreme Court had overstepped its authority in ordering the release of a group of imprisoned opposition leaders.

The surprise judicial ruling last week has led to an increasingly tense standoff between President Yameen Abdul Gayoom and the Supreme Court, with protests spilling into the streets of the capital, Male, and soldiers in riot gear deployed to the parliament building to stop lawmakers from meeting.

Yameen, in a letter to the court released by his office, said the order had encroached on the powers of the state and was an “infringement of national security and public interest.” He urged the court to “review the concerns” of the government.

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