UPDATE 3 – Maldives security forces storm Supreme Court as crisis deepens

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Maldives President Abdulla Yameen on Monday night declared a state of emergency as the government continues to defy an order from the Supreme Court, where security forces have broken into the building, plunging the island nation further into crisis.
A brief statement from the presidential office said a 15-day state of emergency had been declared. “During this time … certain rights will be restricted,” it said, adding that general movements, services and businesses will not be affected.

It was not immediately clear which rights would be restricted as a result of the emergency declaration. Under the constitution, the government is not permitted to restrict certain rights and freedoms, such as freedom of speech, press freedom, and certain legal rights.

Former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood, who is currently the president of the Maldives Bar Association, said he was in contact with Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed. In updates through Twitter, Suood relayed fears that security forces were about to storm the Supreme Court building.

“[He] called me a little while ago and asked me to inform the public to protect him and the institution,” Suood said in an update on his official Twitter account. Security forces later blocked the Supreme Court and entered the building at about 10:20 p.m. local time, the Maldives Judiciary confirmed.

It was not immediately clear what the security forces planned to do at the Supreme Court building. Independent TV channel Raajje TV reported that President Yameen entered the headquarters of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) as the operation was underway.

In Washington, D.C., the White House National Security Council said the United States “stands with” the people of the Maldives. “The Maldivian government and military must respect the rule of law, freedom of expression, and democratic institutions. The world is watching,” the White House said.

Minutes after the state of emergency was declared, the Indian government issued a travel advisory for the Maldives. It said Indian nationals are advised to defer all non-essential travel to the country until further notice, calling the situation in the Maldives a “matter of concern.”

The crisis comes just days after the Supreme Court determined that the trial of exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed was unconstitutional. It also ordered the release of nine opposition leaders, which the government has refused to do.

Yameen’s Progressive Party would lose its majority in parliament if it complies with the court order and releases those detained.

As a result of the deepening crisis, the government has shut down parliament to prevent lawmakers from meeting. President Yameen also fired police chief Ahamed Areef on Thursday, and then fired interim police chief Ahmed Saudhee on Saturday.

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