The Supreme Court has ordered the immediate release of high-profile prisoners including the former president Mohamed Nasheed and former vice president Ahmed Adeeb.
In a landmark statement issued Thursday night the Supreme Court said the prisoners were free until fair trials could be conducted without undue influence.
Hundreds of people poured onto the streets of the capital Malé, cheering, singing, chanting and waving flags as police started to gather near the crowds. Prayers were being recited at an opposition rally, with people saying: “The government is over Allah akbar.”
“I believe the wisest thing to do now is to resign,” the exiled Nasheed told RaajjeTV, referring to President Abdulla Yameen. “I will go to Malé. But I do not plan to go tonight.
“That’s not what I’m being advised by my party. As you know, we are in a united coalition, I am the president of the Maldivian Democratic Party, so I will move forward wisely with the advice of the party and the united parties,” he said.
The Supreme Court decision named Nasheed, Adeeb as well as MP Faris Maumoon, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, the former prosecutor general Muhuthaz Muhusin, former magistrate Ahmed Nihan, Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
“After considering the cases submitted to the Supreme Court about violations of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives and human rights treaties that the Maldives is party to, to conduct politically motivated investigations followed by trials where prosecutors and judges were unduly influenced, the Supreme Court has found that these cases have to be retried according to legal standards,” it said.
“Until these cases can be retried according to legal standards, 1 – Mohamed Nasheed, G. Kenereege; 2 – Mohamed Nazim, M. Seenukarankaage; 3 – Imran Abdulla, Malhaar, M. Kolhufushi; 4 – Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor, H. Saamaraa; 5 – Muhthaaz Muhsin, Rasmaage, Ga. Maamendhoo; 6 – Gasim Ibrahim, M. Maafannu Vilaa; 7 – Ahmed Faris Maumoon, M. Kinbigasdhoshuge; 8 – Ahmed Nihan, Venus, Ga. Maamendhoo, 9 – Hamid Ismail, M. Shoora Manzil, should be freed immediately in order to facilitate the retrial and investigation of the cases according to law.”
US ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Atul Keshap welcomed the ruling. “I urge the Government and security services to respect this ruling, which bolsters # and # for all Maldivians,” he tweeted.
The court also reinstated the 12 MPs who were previously stripped of their seats to give the opposition coalition a majority in parliament, which has the power to impeach President Abdulla Yameen.
Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whose son Faris is named in the ruling, said the decision must be enforced in its totality.
The police tweeted that they had decided to follow the Supreme Court ruling after seeking legal advice and had started work to enforce it.
Crowds at an opposition rally cheered and clapped when the police tweet was read out, with islanders urged to get in their boats and sail to the capital.
“The Supreme Court’s verdict effectively ends President Yameen’s authoritarian rule,” said the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.