MALE: The Maldives’ top judge was arrested Tuesday as security forces stormed the Supreme Court at dawn, after President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency in the honeymoon islands.
The detention of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another Supreme Court judge dramatically raised the stakes after Yameen refused to comply with the court’s order to release political dissidents.
It was the latest twist in a political battle that has plunged the tiny Indian Ocean nation into crisis and sparked a strong US protest.
Several countries have warned against travel to the upmarket holiday paradise, which depends heavily on tourism, at the peak of the season.
Yameen, facing threats from a galvanised political opposition to impeach him for alleged corruption, had earlier ordered a shutdown of parliament.
In a televised address to the nation, the president accused the judges of being part of a plot to overthrow him.
“I had to declare a national emergency because there was no other way to investigate these judges,” he said.
“We had to find out how thick the plot or coup was.”
Yameen has presided over an escalating crackdown on dissent that has battered the image of the nation, and left almost all the political opposition jailed since he came to power in 2013.
On Monday he ordered the arrest of his estranged half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had sided with the main opposition.