Male: The Maldives Vice President said on Saturday that he is "ashamed and totally devastated" that the government in which he is a member has arrested a criminal court judge in violation of his freedom from arbitrary arrest.
In a clear indication of divisions within President Mohamed Nasheed's government, Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan blogged that he wondered if the struggles that freed the nation from a 30-year autocracy had been wasted.
"The most important and most precious dividend from the democracy struggle in Maldives has been freedom from fear. It is the knowledge that no one of us will be dragged out of our beds in the middle of the night and taken to an undisclosed location," Waheed wrote.
"The moment we deny this freedom from one person, we deny that freedom for all."
The military arrested Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed on Monday after he ordered the release of a government critic detained without a warrant. He is still being held on an island the military uses for training in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
The country's Supreme Court and the prosecutor general have called for Mohamed's release and the arrest has triggered street protests. The government accuses the judge of corruption and political bias.
A defiant Nasheed speaking to hundreds of his supporters on Saturday justified the military's action, saying disputes such as the one with Maldives' judiciary are common in new democracies and the military plays a big role in resolving them.
He explained the arrest came only after the Judicial Service Commission, mandated to examine the conduct of judges, failed to take action on his complaints against Mohamed and that it was not to hurt him personally.
"As the democratically elected president of the Maldives, I will do anything to uphold the Constitution," he said.
Both Nasheed and Waheed were leading pro-democracy campaigners before being elected to office in the country's first multiparty election in 2008.
"We have just witnessed the first possible violation since the dawn of democracy in our country. I cannot understand why this is not an issue for everyone in this country," Waheed said, adding that the country's youth and the educated are not taking an interest in the issue.
The arrest has sparked regular street protests which have been broken up by police using tear gas.
Maldives journalists have accused the government of intimidation and threats against those reporting on the political dispute and the judge's arrest.
The government has also accused opposition protesters of destroying public property, attacking journalists and vandalising the home of a minister.
The Maldives Human Rights Commission said it has visited the arrested judge at the military facility and that he is in good health and has not been subjected to any degrading treatment. But the commission expressed concerns about the arrest and detention of the judge without access to a lawyer and also the arrest of two opposition politicians during a protest on Friday.
Maldives is known for its idyllic resorts for upmarket tourists.
First Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012, 10:29