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 In an unexpected move on February 5, the Maldives Supreme Court ordered the release of several imprisoned opposition lawmakers, ruling that their trials were politically motivated. President Abdulla Yameen refused to comply with the decision and instead imposed a state of emergency for a period of 15 days on February 6. This afforded him sweeping powers to send security forces into the Supreme Court building in the capital city of Male. 

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed were both arrested in the early hours of Tuesday (February 6), local police said via Twitter, although charges were not specified. Their detention was soon followed by the arrest of Yameen's estranged half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom — who had ruled the country for more than 30 years until a transition to democracy in 2008.  

Gayoom, who has sided with the opposition party since leaving office a decade ago, has been a vocal critic of the current president. He was succeeded by Mohamed Nasheed in 2009, who served during a brief period of multiparty democracy before being controversially ousted five years after taking office. 

Nasheed was internationally recognized for his efforts in addressing the impact of climate change on the Maldives. However, he was imprisoned in 2015 on terrorism charges — which his supporters say were contrived. The Maldives President on February 7 welcomed a Supreme Court move to reinstate the convictions of high-profile political prisoners after he arrested two top judges and declared a state of emergency, plunging the upmarket holiday paradise into chaos.

After being allowed to leave prison a year later on medical grounds, Nasheed was granted asylum in Britain. He was reportedly expected to challenge Yameen in presidential elections later this year, before the current political dispute triggered the ensuing crisis. Yameen has been in power since 2013, following a disputed election that his opponents claim was rigged. Since then, he has been accused of jailing critics, cracking down on dissent and ultimately eroding the country's democratic process. (Courtesy: CNBC.com)