Maldives govt warns Supreme Court against impeachment move

Abdulla Yameen takes his oath as the President of Maldives during a swearing-in ceremony at the parliament in Male November 17, 2013. (Reuters)
Updated 04 February 2018
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Maldives govt warns Supreme Court against impeachment move

MALE: The beleaguered Maldives government Sunday ordered police and troops to resist any move by the Supreme Court to arrest or impeach President Abdulla Yameen over his refusal to release political prisoners.
The tiny tourist archipelago has been plunged into a political crisis pitting the country’s top court against Yameen, whose crackdown on dissent has tarnished the nation’s image as an upmarket holiday paradise.
The judges on Thursday night ordered authorities to release nine political dissidents and restore the seats of 12 legislators who had been sacked for defecting from Yameen’s party, ruling the cases were politically motivated.
But the Yameen government has so far refused to comply with the shock ruling. It has shuttered parliament and resisted international calls to respect the judicial order and restore democracy.
In a national television address on Sunday Attorney General Mohamed Anil remained defiant.
“Any Supreme Court order to arrest the president would be unconstitutional and illegal. So I have asked the police and the army not to implement any unconstitutional order,” Anil said.
Former president and current opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed described the government’s refusal to obey the supreme court as a “coup.”
Nasheed, who was controversially convicted of a terrorism charge and jailed for 13 years in 2015, urged police and troops to uphold the constitution.
“Statements made today by AG Anil...to disobey SC orders is tantamount to a coup. They, and President Yameen must resign immediately,” Nasheed said on Twitter. “Security services must uphold the constitution and serve the Maldivian people.”
Nasheed lives abroad after traveling out of the country in 2016 on prison leave for medical treatment. He is currently in Colombo meeting Maldivian dissidents based in Sri Lanka.
The Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the dozen legislators gave the opposition a majority in the 85-member assembly, and it can now potentially impeach Yameen.
However the authorities shut parliament indefinitely on Saturday to avert such a move. Yameen also sacked two police chiefs after the court’s decision.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party led by Nasheed has expressed fears that any move by the government to resist the Supreme Court’s order may trigger unrest in the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims.
The government said Friday it had concerns about releasing those convicted for “terrorism, corruption, embezzlement, and treason.”
The United Nations, Australia, Britain, Canada, India and the United States have welcomed the court’s decision as a move toward restoring democracy in the politically troubled Indian Ocean nation.
Nasheed, the country’s first democratically leader, was toppled in 2012. He was barred from contesting elections after his 2015 terrorism conviction, which was internationally criticized as politically motivated.


Philippine judge rejects Duterte push for critic's arrest

Updated 37 min 51 sec ago
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Philippine judge rejects Duterte push for critic's arrest

  • The decision from a Manila court denied a government petition to take Senator Antonio Trillanes into custody
  • Trillanes has attacked the president's deadly narcotics crackdown, but also accused Duterte of corruption

MANILA: A Philippine judge rejected on Monday an effort by President Rodrigo Duterte to arrest one of his fiercest critics, a decision hailed by opponents as a check on the leader and a victory for the rule of law.
The decision from a Manila court denied a government petition to take Senator Antonio Trillanes into custody on charges for which the lawmaker had already been granted amnesty.
Trillanes has attacked the president's deadly narcotics crackdown, but also accused Duterte of corruption and his son of involvement in drug dealing.
"We wish to thank Judge Andres Soriano who has singlehandedly upheld justice and the rule of law in the country despite extreme pressure coming from the Duterte regime," a beaming Trillanes told reporters.
The order for Trillanes' arrest stems from the president voiding in September an amnesty granted eight years ago to the senator, an ex-navy officer, for his role in two coup attempts in the mid-2000s.
Duterte alleged the lawmaker did not complete the requirements of filing an official application and admitting guilt, but Monday's ruling threw out those arguments.
However, this decision is unlikely to be the final word on this case. The Philippines' top court is weighing the constitutional questions posed by Duterte's amnesty revocation and the government all but pledged to appeal.
"This is not the end. Nobody has to claim total victory here," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters. "This may be subject to review by the higher courts."
Monday's news came as Trillanes was on bail over another military uprising case that was revived by Duterte revoking the lawmaker's amnesty.
His arrest last month in that case made Trillanes the second senator critical of Duterte's drug war to be detained. Leila de Lima has been behind bars since February 2017 on charges she says were concocted to silence her.
Human Rights Watch called Monday's decision a temporary victory for rule of law in the Philippines.
"The Duterte administration's campaign is designed to silence Trillanes," HRW researcher Carlos Conde told AFP.
"We expect it (the government) to continue, even ramp up, this political harassment and intimidation," he added.
Trillanes had faced rebellion and coup d'etat charges for being among military officers who rose up against then president Gloria Arroyo over alleged corruption and mismanagement.
He led scores of junior officers in taking over part of a main district of Manila in 2003 and seized a posh Manila hotel in 2007 along with several armed followers as they demanded Arroyo's resignation.