Maldives former dictator, judges charged with terrorism

MALE, Maldives (AP) — Maldives authorities on Tuesday charged the country’s former dictator and two top judges with terrorism, amid state of emergency.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the 30-year ruler of the Indian Ocean archipelago state; Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed; and Justice Ali Hameed were among nine people charged at the Criminal Court.

Prosecutors did not specify the grounds on which they are charged with terrorism. If convicted, they could be jailed for 10 to 15 years. All three also were charged with obstruction of justice on suspicion of refusing to hand over their phones to investigators.

Saeed, Hameed and another judicial officer were charged with receiving bribes to help overthrow the government.

Gayoom and the judges were arrested last month amid political turmoil that followed a Supreme Court order to release from prison a group of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s political opponents. The president is a half-brother of the former dictator, who are now political enemies.

The group was jailed after facing trials criticized over allegations of due process violations. Saeed and Hameed helped order the release and retrial of the prisoners.

The government declared a state of emergency and arrested the two judges, after which the three remaining judges reversed the order to release Yameen’s political opponents.

Among the prisoners was Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first president elected in a free election. He was jailed for 13 years under the terror law for detaining a sitting judge when he was in power in 2012 but received asylum in Britain when he traveled there for medical treatment.

Had he been cleared, Nasheed could have been a strong rival to Yameen in the presidential election scheduled for later this year. However, Yameen is now poised to run for re-election virtually unopposed with all of his rivals are either jailed or in exile.

Yameen’s half-brother ruled the Maldives between 1978 and 2008, before reforms led to a free election in which Gayoom lost to Nasheed, a pro-democracy activist whom he had repeatedly jailed.

Nasheed resigned in 2012, four years into his presidency, amid public opposition to his order for the military to detain a judge. Nasheed lost to Yameen in the 2013 presidential election and then was jailed for ordering the judge’s detention.

Since being elected, Yameen has rolled back much of the democratic gains and freedoms.

Apart from Nasheed, Yameen’s former vice president and a defense minister are among the many who have been jailed since Yameen took office.

The country’s traditional political alliances have been upended in recent years. Gayoom, who campaigned for Yameen in 2013, is now allied with Nasheed, who unseated him in the 2008 elections.

The Maldives is an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands. Tourism dominates the economy, with wealthy foreigners flown directly to hyper-expensive resort islands.

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