World's first judicial coup averted, says Maldives ruling party

Maldives ruling party on Thursday thanked embattled president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom for averting what it described as the first judicial coup ever seen throughout the history of the world.

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, president Yameen had got the parliament contentiously extend it by another 30 days.

Hours before the 45 day state of emergency was set to expire, legal affairs minister Azima Shakoor flanked by the Attorney General (AG) Mohamed Anil announced the president's decision to lift the emergency state with effect from 12pm Thursday.

Speaking to local reporters on Thursday, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla heaped praise on the president for saving the country from a wicked plan hatched by the opposition aided by "traitors" within the government and the state.

In a statement shortly after the announcement, the president's office said the emergency state was "precipitated by a constitutional crisis created by two Justices of the Supreme Court who conspired with political actors to violate both the constitution and standard legal norms and practices in order to illegally overthrow a lawful government, and whose actions constituted an imminent threat to national security."

The statement said the police along with the prosecutor general's (PG) office have been able to progress substantially into their investigation of corruption and other crimes relating to the crisis.

By Wednesday, prosecutors have got the country's criminal court to remand the suspects until the end of their respective trials which otherwise would have forced authorities to release them after the emergency state ended.

The most high-profile figures remanded until the end of the trial included former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, chief justice Abdulla Saeed and top court judge Ali Hameed - all now formally charged with terrorism over the alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Prosecutors have also formally charged four opposition lawmakers over the alleged coup plot.

"We've heard about coups backed by the military. Or the people bringing down a government. Or the opposition doing the same. But I've never heard of a judicial coup. I think what happened the Maldives should go down in history as the first judicial coup in the world," the outspoken lawmaker claimed.

Meanwhile, the President's Office in its statement assured that the constitutional rights and functioning of independent institutions have been restored.

"The three branches of the State remain independent and the checks and balances enshrined the Constitution are safeguarded. Though there still exists a diminished threat to national security, because the nation can now continue without further losses incurred, and upon the advice of the Security Services and in an effort to promote normalcy, the President has decided to lift the State of Emergency," the statement read.

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.

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.