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UN concerned by Maldives govt's 'heavy-handed' response to court order

United Nations (UN) rights chief on Friday expressed concern over the 'heavy-handed' reaction by security forces in the capital Male against opposition supporters celebrating the Supreme Court decision to release all jailed political leaders including former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville in a statement echoed calls by Maldives' international partners urging the archipelago's government to respect the order of the apex court.

The statement said the UN rights chief was closely monitoring the 'extremely tense' situation in the Maldives in the aftermath of the court order particularly the reactions of the 'government, military and police.'

"We are concerned by what appears to be an initial heavy-handed reaction by security forces in the capital Malé against people celebrating the Court’s decision, and urge them to show understanding and restraint, and to act in full accordance with international laws and standards governing the policing of protests and other forms of public assembly," the statement read.

"We also urge all those celebrating, or protesting, to do so in a peaceful fashion."

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.

The government however, has so far refused to implement the court order saying that it needs to follow 'due process' before the jailed political prisoners can be released.

Maldives' chief prosecutor in a statement said the process of enforcing the court order is currently underway but said it needs to follow "due procedure" to release the political prisoners as advised by the chief justice.

"In that regard this office is now preparing to submit details of the legal and judicial concerns it has to the Supreme Court," the statement read.

The statement was issued hours after the attorney general (AG) Mohamed Anil in a brief statement on state TV, said the relevant authorities have consulted chief justice Abdulla Saeed over the court order.

"The chief justice has asked us to implement the court order within the due process," Anil said.

Anil said the chief prosecutor had "concerns" over the court order and would now review the cases of the nine people named in the order before submitting it to the apex court.

"We've been advised [by the chief justice] to carry out things within the due process. PG has now started reviewing the cases in the list and would share the concerns he has over the order and submit it to the Supreme Court to find a way forward," the AG explained.

Once the concerns have been submitted, Anil said the government believes the Supreme Court would then decide on the best way forward.