Maldives ruling party hits back at US Amb over political jailings jibe

Maldives' chief government lawmaker on Saturday seemingly hit back at the US Ambassador following criticism of the continued political jailings in the archipelago insisting that "foreign diplomats would not know who should be jailed."

Speaking during a ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) press conference, the Villi-Maafannu lawmaker Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik stressed that the people had the right to put away a criminal within the laws of the country.

"Ambassadors from neighbouring countries can't tell us who we should put away or in what order we should do it. We have the right and freedom to put away criminals for the time permitted under our laws based on the offence," the outspoken lawmaker said.

Nihan was clearly referring to the comments made by the US Ambassador to Maldives and Sri Lanka Atul Keshyap hours earlier.

"Arrests are happening so fast during the Maldives State Of Emergency that it is hard to keep track. How many duly elected Members of Parliament and constitutionally designated officers of the government are now in jail?" Keshyap said in a Tweet.

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.

After the original state of emergency expired, 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.

Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before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