Male, Feb 2: Clashes erupted in the Maldives between police and supporters of former President Mohamed Nasheed on Friday as they took to the streets celebrating a ruling by the Supreme Court to release the exiled leader along with other high-profile prisoners.
The top court in Thursday night’s ruling declared that “the politicians original trials violated constitutional and international law”, the BBC reported.
It called for their immediate release and said the “questionable and politically motivated nature of the trials of the political leaders warrant a re-trial”.
Former Vice-President Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and other opposition leaders were among the others named in the latest order. The decision effectively restores the opposition majority in Parliament, reinstating 12 members who had been stripped of their seats.
Hundreds of Nasheed supporters took to the streets to celebrate but clashes broke out after President Yameen Abdul Gayoom fired the country’s police chief, whose department had announced that it would uphold the verdict.
Police fired teargas to disperse opposition supporters gathered in the capital while riot police urged people not to take part in any protests and asked everyone to immediately leave, the local media reported.
Defence Minister Adam Shareef urged people to exercise restraint “for the sake of harmony”, warning that “if things escalate, it could be a time of a national security crisis”.
Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader, took office in 2008. He was ousted in a coup in February 2012.
The country has seen political unrest since he was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2015 on terrorism charges after allegedly ordering the arrest of a judge during his presidency.
His conviction sentence was internationally condemned and he was given political asylum in the UK.
In a tweet, Nasheed called President Gayoom to resign. Similar call was echoed in a joint statement by the country’s opposition parties.
He told the local television that he planned to return to Male, but not immediately. “I will move forward wisely with the advice of the party and the united parties,” he said.
The US Ambassador to the Maldives urged the country’s leader to respect the court’s judgment.
A spokesman for the President’s office said that the government questioned the ruling but would comply.