Maldives parliament approves extension of state of emergency

Maldives parliament approves extension of state of emergency
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MALE, Maldives (AP) -- Maldives' parliament on Tuesday approved a 30-day extension of a state of emergency declared by the president to strengthen his power after the Supreme Court ordered the release of his imprisoned political opponents.

The extension of the emergency, which gives wide powers to security forces, is the latest development in a political crisis that has engulfed the Indian Ocean archipelago nation for weeks.

The speaker of parliament, Abdulla Maseeh, announced that the motion passed after 37 ruling party lawmakers in the 85-member house voted in favor and opposition lawmakers boycotted the balloting.

The two-week state of emergency declared by President Yameen Abdul Gayoom was to expire Tuesday evening, and he had asked the legislature to extend it by 30 days.

The constitution requires that a state of emergency be approved within 48 hours of its declaration by the president. It can take up to two weeks if parliament is in recess, as was the case with Yameen's proclamation.

Under the emergency law, Yameen had two Supreme Court judges arrested, accusing them of corruption. Later, the remaining three judges annulled the order to release Yameen's opponents, who were convicted in widely criticized trials.

The judges on Sunday also delayed an earlier order to reinstate 12 pro-opposition lawmakers who were expelled after siding with the opposition. Yameen's party would have lost a majority in parliament had they been allowed to participate.

Yameen's half brother and former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was also arrested after the emergency decree, accused of conspiring with the opposition to overthrow the government.

Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of Gayoom's autocratic rule. But Yameen has rolled back much of the country's democratic gains after being elected in 2013.

The country's traditional political alliances have been upended in recent years. Gayoom, now an opposition leader, is allied with exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed, who unseated him in the 2008 elections. Nasheed, Yameen's most prominent rival, is among the politicians ordered freed by the Supreme Court.

Maldives is an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands. More than one-third of its 400,000 citizens live in Male, the crowded capital city. Tourism dominates the economy, with wealthy foreigners flown directly to hyper-expensive resort islands.APP

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