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Maldives high court annuls order to release political prisoners hours after justices arrested

[JURIST] Three justices of the Maldives Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday annulled [order, PDF] a controversial ruling [text] the court had issued last Thursday that required the government to immediately release a number of political prisoners.

The reversal came a few hours after government forces arrested [press release] the two other justices of the Supreme Court, including the chief justice, on corruption charges.

The order to release the prisoners sparked a political crisis [JURIST report] over the weekend as protests erupted throughout the country's capital, Male, urging the government to comply with the order and leading President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom [official profile] to declare [press release] a 15-day state of emergency.

The small ocean archipelago country has recently assumed a larger geopolitical role, as China has increased its political and economic ties with the country as part of its "String of Pearls" strategy aimed at the creation of a port network in the Indian Ocean. As such, the Chinese have cautioned against [press release] the use of international force to address the political crisis. However, former President Mohammed Nasheed, currently exiled in Sri Lanka, has publicly requested [tweet] India send a military convoy in order to free the detained judges and political leaders. On Wednesday the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] called [press release] the recent actions by Yameen "an all-out assault on democracy."

Yameen was elected in 2013 and is up for election this year, but remains virtually unopposed as his political opponents have all been jailed or exiled.

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