Police block opposition protest, allows ruling party rally in Addu

Maldives police on Friday allowed a ruling party rally led by first lady Fathimath Ibrahim but blocked a united opposition protest in the southernmost Atoll Addu City on Friday.

The first lady accompanied by top ruling party officials had organized a march to campaign for her husband and embattled president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Friday in Addu.

Police had allowed the march but had prevented opposition supporters from protesting in Hithadhoo island.

Addu deputy mayor Abdulla Thoyyib accused the police of double standards insisting that the government wishes to "hide" the real support of the opposition in Addu by getting the police to block the opposition protest.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Yameen on February 5 had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

As the state of emergency expired on Tuesday, president Yameen had got the parliament contentiously extend it by another 30 days.

Since the emergency state was declared, president Yameen has held several rallies even in the capital Male, but police have pepper sprayed opposition supporters to quell any protest in the capital Male.

President Yameen is facing mounting international pressure after exploiting the rights suspended under emergency state to crackdown hard on the opposition as police have made a series of high profile arrests including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, three lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.

Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.

The accusations against Gayoom included bribing lawmakers and judges to influence their authority while the deposed ruling party leader has also been accused of creating discord within the security forces to back the overthrow of his half-brother's government.

The two top court judges are accused of accepting bribes to influence Supreme Court rulings, abuse of power and blocking the functioning of the entire justice system.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the now rescinded 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 Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

Former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's uncle Hamid Ismail make up the rest of the list.