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.
 


Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

A woman carries a placard as Ireland holds a referendum on liberalising abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

  • Exit polls says 68 percent of voters back change
  • The country's leaders support a "yes," an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment

DUBLIN: Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.
An Irish Times exit poll released Friday night projected a landslide victory for those who want to loosen abortion laws, but official results are not expected until Saturday afternoon.
The country’s leaders support a “yes,” an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment requiring authorities to treat a fetus and its mother as equals under the law. They called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalize some of Europe’s strictest abortion rules.
Voters went to the polls after a campaign that aroused deep emotions on both sides. For advocates of repeal, a “yes” vote would be a landmark in Irish women’s fight for equality and the right to control their own bodies. For opponents, it would be a betrayal of Ireland’s commitment to protect the unborn.
The vote also is a key indicator of Ireland’s trajectory, three years after the country voted to allow same-sex marriages and a year after its first openly gay prime minister took office.
The newspaper exit poll indicated overwhelming support for change. The survey by pollster Ipsos-MRBI says 68 percent of voters backed repeal of the ban and 32 percent opposed it. The pollster says it interviewed some 4,000 people and the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. The poll is only a prediction.
Theresa Sweeney, a repeal supporter, was one of the first to arrive at a church polling station in Dublin.
“I feel like I’ve waited all of my adult life to have a say on this,” she said.
Emma Leahy said her “yes” vote comes from her firm belief that everyone should be able to make their own choice when it comes to abortion.
“For Ireland, it’s hope for the future,” she said of the referendum. “Whether you agree or disagree, it shouldn’t be the government or anyone else making that decision.”
Vera Rooney voted against repeal.
“It is a hard decision but I just feel I don’t have the right to take life,” she said. “I think life is sacred and for that reason I had to vote no.”
The referendum will decide whether the eighth amendment of the constitution is repealed or stays in place.
The amendment requires authorities to equally protect the right to life of a mother and that of a fetus, from the moment of conception. That effectively bans all abortions in Ireland, except in cases when the woman’s life is at risk. Having an illegal abortion is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and several thousand Irish women travel each year to get abortions in neighboring Britain.
If citizens vote in favor of repeal, new abortion laws will then be discussed in parliament. The government proposes that terminations be allowed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Later abortions would be allowed in special cases.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a doctor, voted in favor of repeal.
“Not taking anything for granted of course, but quietly confident,” he said, adding that the upside of a sunny day in Ireland is that people come out to vote.
Thousands of Irish people abroad traveled home to take part in the historic referendum, and supporters of repeal gathered at Dublin Airport to give arrivals an ecstatic welcome.
Some activists held a placard reading “Thank you for making the journey so other women don’t have to” — a reference to the way Irish women seeking abortions have had to leave the country to obtain them.
Tara Flynn, who 11 years ago flew to the Netherlands for an abortion, said she planned to vote “yes” to make sure future generations of women don’t endure what she did, with feelings of isolation and shame.
She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, “a vote to say, I don’t send you away anymore.”
Campaigning was not allowed Friday, but Dublin was still filled with signs and banners urging citizens to vote “yes” or “no.” Many of the anti-abortion signs showed photographs of fetuses.
Voting has already taken place on Ireland’s remote islands so that paper ballots can be taken to the mainland and counted in time.
Letters to the editor published Friday in the Irish Independent newspaper contained several emotional arguments urging voters to reject the repeal movement.
“If we vote ‘yes’ every unborn, wanted and unwanted, will have zero rights,” wrote Frances Kelleher, from Killarney. “I do not believe the smart people of Ireland want this unrestricted, abortion-on-demand bill.”