Maldives ruling party rejects prosecutors' petition

Maldives ruling party on Friday rejected the petition signed by over 30 lawyers of the prosecutor general's (PG) office saying that the state of emergency extension was unconstitutional.

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 Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom 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.

However, the united opposition lawmakers had boycotted the extraordinary sitting leaving the ruling party short on the constitutionally mandated number of MPs to go for a vote.

After efforts to convince some of the opposition MPs to attend Tuesday's sitting failed, the parliament with only 38 government MPs voted to extend the state of emergency.

According to Article 87 (b) of the constitution, a parliament vote on any matter requiring compliance by citizens shall only be undertaken when more than half of the total membership of the parliament are present at the sitting at which the matter is voted upon.

The number is well short of the minimum 43 specified by the constitution.

According to sources, Maldives' chief prosecutor Aishath Bisham almost resigned on Wednesday after the police rejected her opinion over the controversial extension of the state of emergency.

According to reliable sources inside the prosecutor general's (PG) office, Bisham had believed that the state of emergency extension was unconstitutional and had sent a letter asking the police to produce all detainees arrested during the state of emergency in court for a remand hearing.

However, when the police refused, Bisham had even scheduled a staff meeting on Wednesday afternoon where she wanted to announce her resignation.

Sources said president's office's legal affairs minister Azima Shakoor had met with the chief prosecutor before the staff meeting was cancelled.

In addition to the PG office, senior lawyers of the Attorney General's (AG) office had also been reportedly divided over the emergency state extension.

Thirty two PG office lawyers had signed a petition backing the chief prosecutor and urging Bisham not to go back on her stand.

However, chief government lawmaker Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik took to Twitter to reject the petition insisting that it was not legally binding.

In addition, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla, during a press conference on Friday also condemned the petition saying that he was disappointed by the actions of the PG office.

Amid the confusion however, Maldives top court late Wednesday temporarily put the state of emergency in effect until it can conclusively decide on the constitutional question marks surrounding the parliament vote to extend the state of emergency.

The apex court late Wednesday, issued a temporary ruling ordering the authorities to follow the parliament vote until it can interpret the constitutional article as requested by the parliament.

The temporary ruling came after the opposition along with top lawyers in the country argued that the lack of quorum at the parliament would mean that the state of emergency would no longer be in effect. The united opposition has also called for the immediate release of all detainees arrested since the emergency state was declared.

President Yameen has used 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.