Maldives’ top judge arrested as state of emergency declared

Security forces stand guard outside the Supreme Court in Male after Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Maldives’ top judge arrested as state of emergency declared

MALDIVES: The Maldives’ top judge was arrested Tuesday as security forces stormed the Supreme Court at dawn, in a deepening confrontation with President Abdulla Yameen who has declared a state of emergency in the troubled honeymoon islands.
The detention of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another Supreme Court judge raised the stakes in a dramatic clash after Yameen refused to comply with an order to release nine political dissidents.
Police said both men were under investigation for corruption and that the court’s top administrator had also been detained.
Yameen has presided over an escalating crackdown on dissent that has battered the image of the upmarket holiday paradise, and left almost all the political opposition jailed since he came to power in 2013.
On Monday he even ordered the arrest of arrest of his estranged half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had sided with the main opposition.
The 80-year-old — president for 30 years until the country’s first democratic elections in 2008 — was taken from his home in the capital Male around midnight on Monday, according to a tweet from his daughter Yumna Maumoon.
“I have not done anything to be arrested,” Gayoom said in a video message to supporters posted on Twitter.
“I urge you to remain steadfast in your resolve too. We will not give up on the reform work we are doing.”

Heavily armed troops and police special operations units stormed the Supreme Court in the early hours, the court said on Twitter, as police used pepper spray to disperse hundreds of people gathered outside.
The court’s shock move in support of the political dissidents on Thursday also included an order for the government to restore the seats of 12 legislators sacked for defecting from Yameen’s party.
The opposition now has the majority in the assembly — meaning they could potentially impeach the president.
But the government, which has ordered police and troops to resist any attempt to arrest or impeach Yameen, said the court was not above the law.
“The Supreme Court ruling stands in defiance of the highest authority in the country: the constitution,” spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab said in a statement.
“The Supreme Court must remember that it too is bound by law.”
He said the government would “facilitate calm” and ensure the safety of all citizens and tourists “throughout this unusual period.”

The court’s decision also paved the way for exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed — the nation’s first democratically elected leader who was controversially convicted of terrorism in 2015 — to run for president this year.
Yameen, who has faced several unsuccessful opposition attempts to impeach him for alleged corruption, responded by shuttering parliament and on Monday his administration announced a 15-day state of emergency.
“The reason for the declaration is that the Supreme Court’s ruling was obstructing the functioning of the government,” presidential aide Azima Shukoor said on national television.
The declaration gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain individuals, curtails the powers of the judiciary and bars parliament from impeaching Yameen.
But it must be officially conveyed to parliament within two days, according to officials.
Nasheed, who has expressed fears of unrest, said the declaration amounted to martial law, while an opposition legislator called it a “desperate move.”
“(This) is tantamount to a declaration of martial law in the Maldives,” Nasheed said, urging regional super power India to intervene.

Opposition legislators have also called on the international community to pressure Yameen.
The United States said it was “troubled and disappointed” at the declaration of a state of emergency and called on Yameen to comply with the rule of law.
“President Yameen has systematically alienated his coalition, jailed or exiled every major opposition political figure, deprived elected Members of Parliament of their right to represent their voters in the legislature, revised laws to erode human rights... and weakened the institutions of government,” the State Department said in a statement.
The United Nations, Australia, Britain, Canada, India and the US had welcomed the court’s decision, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the weekend called for “restraint” as the crisis escalated.
 


French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

Updated 36 min 45 sec ago
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French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

  • The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence
  • Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital

PARIS: Thousands of French yellow vest demonstrators were marching through Paris on Saturday as authorities enforced bans on protests in certain areas and displayed enhanced security measures to avoid a repeat of last week’s riots in the capital.
The crowd gathered peacefully Saturday at Denfert-Rochereau Square in southern Paris and then headed north. The protesters are expected to finish Saturday’s march in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Montmartre around its signature monument, the hilltop Sacre-Coeur Cathedral.
French authorities have banned protests from the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris and the central neighborhoods of several other cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Nice in the south, and Rouen in western France.
The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence. Scores of shops were looted and ransacked last weekend, and some were set on fire by protesters. Fear of more violence certainly kept tourists away, and police shut down the Champs-Elysees subway stations as a precaution.
Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital.
In Nice, police dispersed a few hundred protesters who gathered on a central plaza. The city was placed under high security measures as Chinese President Xi Jinping was expected to stay overnight on Sunday as part of his state visit to France.
The new Paris police chief, Didier Lallement, who took charge following the destruction wrought by last week’s protests, said specific police units have been created to react faster to any violence.
About 6,000 police officers were deployed in the capital on Saturday and two drones were helping to monitor the demonstrations. French authorities also deployed soldiers to protect sensitive sites, allowing police forces to focus on maintaining order during the protests.
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday dismissed criticism from opposition leaders regarding the involvement of the military, saying they are not taking over police duties.
“Those trying to scare people, or to scare themselves, are wrong,” he said in Brussels.
Christelle Camus, a yellow vest protester from a southern suburb of Paris, called using French soldiers to help ensure security “a great nonsense.”
“Since when do soldiers face a population? We are here in France. You would say that we are here in (North) Korea or in China. I never saw something like this,” she said.
Last week’s surge in violence came as support for the 4-month-old anti-government yellow vest movement has been dwindling, mostly as a reaction to the riots by some protesters.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes but have expanded into a broader rejection of Macron’s economic policies, which protesters say favor businesses and the wealthy over ordinary French workers. Macron countered by dropping the fuel tax hike and holding months of discussions with the public on France’s stagnant wages, high taxes and high unemployment.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.