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Maldives' ex-police chief arrested over 'coup' plot

Maldives police on Tuesday arrested its former police chief Ahmed Areef over allegations of a plot to overthrow the government.

Areef was relieved from his post shortly after the top court on February 1 ordered the release all jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The police chief's sacking came after police in a Tweet assured that it would abide by the court order and has kick-started efforts to release the jailed political prisoners.

The arrest comes less than a month after the government had slapped a travel ban on the former police chief.

Police had searched Areef's residence in the capital Male before taking him away to the custodial jail in Dhoonidhoo island.

Areef is the most high-profile arrest amid the ongoing crackdown on the security forces by the embattled government.

The series of arrests come in the wake of increasing rumours of a revolt within the police and military ranks.

Opposition has also claimed that several soldiers have been detained inside the army barracks.

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Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before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