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Maldives military arrests chief justice of criminal court

The Maldives military Monday arrested the chief justice of the nation's criminal court after he released a detained opposition leader. Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested for corruption [WP report] in an unprecedented move by the military that has sparked street protests and prompted all the country's courts to boycott sessions. Opposition activists claim the arrest was made in retaliation for the judge's ruling a day earlier that opposition leader Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was being illegally detained under an old criminal defamation law that is not part of the current democratic law established in 2008. The country's prosecutor general's office has said that under the constitution a judge can be arrested only after a supreme court decision to do so. The supreme court, the prosecutor general's office and judicial services commission all issued statements calling the judge's arrest illegal and requesting his release. At least 200 protesters gathered Tuesday near the police and military headquarters demanding adherence to court orders and release of the arrested judge, but police and soldiers used batons to disperse them.

The Maldives has faced ongoing political difficulties following the adoption of its constitution [JURIST report] in late 2008. President Mohamed Nasheed [official website] defeated longtime political opponent Maumoon Abdul Gayoom [BBC profile], who had jailed him numerous times during his 30-year rule. However, opposition legislators have blocked the ruling party's legislative agenda, leaving certain crucial provisions of the new constitutional system unestablished. This resulted in the resignation of Nasheed's entire cabinet [BBC report] in June 2010. The Maldives Constitution [text, PDF] provides for multi-party elections, an independent judiciary and grants more authority to the legislature. It also enumerates fundamental rights of citizens and establishes several special commissions on issues relating to human rights and corruption. The new constitution was drafted in response to international criticism [AI report, PDF] of 2003 government actions against protesters of prison conditions in the country.

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