US urges Maldives govt to respect order to release political leaders

US late Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court's decision to order the release of all jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed and urged the government to respect the ruling.

US ambassador to Maldives Atul Keshap on Twitter welcomed the Supreme Court order to the release of all political prisoners and ensure their fair treatment under law.

"I urge the government and security services to respect this ruling, which bolsters democracy and rule of law for all Maldivians," Keshap added.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and deposed ruling party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

The others named in the order included former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's brother in law Hamid Ismail.

The court said the questionable and politically motivated nature of the trials of the political leaders warrants a re-trial and ordered the authorities to immediately free the jailed leaders until a court of law sentences otherwise.

The court has ordered relevant authorities to strictly enforce the order and warned legal action against anyone who refuses to obey the court order.

The court had also annulled its anti-defection ruling and ordered the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling. The Supreme Court said the anti-defection ruling was issued as a temporary solution to the constitutional dispute case filed by the state but insisted that the relevant authorities have failed to bring to effect an anti-defection law specified in the ruling.

Top opposition figures have called on the entire nation to join the celebrations to mark the end of 'tyranny'. They had echoed calls for the immediate impeachment of incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Hours after the Supreme Court ordered the relevant authorities to immediately release all jailed political leaders, the Attorney General (AG) Mohamed Anil flanked by the home minister, defence minister and army chief in a brief press briefing insisted that the government was now trying to verify the validity of the Supreme Court order.

"We haven't received any official confirmation from the Supreme Court thus far. We will of course need to verify the validity of the court order before we can enforce it," the AG insisted.

AG said the police chief Ahmed Areef has been relieved from his post as president Yameen's repeated attempts to contact the police commissioner had failed.

Areef would be replaced by deputy police chief Ahmed Saudhee, Anil added.

The police chief's sacking came after police in a Tweet assured that it would abide by the court order and has kick-started efforts to release the jailed political prisoners.