EU asks Maldives govt to lift SOE, warns 'targeted measures'

The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union (EU) on Monday adopted a series of conclusions on the Maldives, in light of the recent deterioration of the situation in the island nation.

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.

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.

As expected, the council adopted a seven point conclusion which included a call to Maldivian institutions to immediately lift the State of Emergency and restore all constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The Council also condemned politically motivated arrests and called for the immediate release of all political prisoners.

"The Council also condemns any interference with the work of the Supreme Court of the Maldives and actions taken against the judiciary and the judges."

The council further expressed concern over the possible impact of the current situation also on the
security of foreign residents and visitors, including tourists.

"The current situation is not in accordance with the principles of democratic rule and
separation of powers," the council said.

"If the situation does not improve, the Council may therefore consider targeted measures."

The council also called on the government to engage with the opposition in genuine dialogue that paves the way for credible, transparent and inclusive presidential elections later this year adding that the EU was ready to support the United Nations (UN) to facilitate such dialogue.

Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before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