Dozens of pro-opposition supporters were injured and many were arrested after police in the Maldives broke up countrywide protests demanding the resignation of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom and the release of his political opponents from prison.
Thousands of people took part in the protests in the archipelago nation Friday despite the country being under a state of emergency.
Several people were hospitalized with injuries and many protesters were arrested, but hospital and police officials refused to provide numbers. The injured included about 10 reporters who were covering the protest.
Police said in a statement Saturday that the demonstrators had ignored warnings that the right to protest has been suspended under the state of emergency.
“In spite of the warning, certain political leaders encouraged this protest, encouraged citizens to face off against security services personnel,” the statement said.
“We also note that the actions of some journalists mirrored that of some protesters,” it said, apparently trying to explain how the reporters were injured.
The Maldives has been in political turmoil since Feb. 1, when the country’s Supreme Court ordered the release of several of Yameen’s political opponents imprisoned after trials that were criticized locally and internationally for alleged violation of due process.
The prisoners include Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first president elected in a free election, who could have been Yameen’s main rival in his re-election bid later this year.
After days of conflict with the judiciary, Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency and had the country’s chief justice and another Supreme Court judge arrested on bribery allegations. Yameen’s half brother and former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom Nasheed defeated in the country’s first democratic election 10 years ago, was also arrested for conspiring to overthrow the government.
The Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. However, Yameen has rolled back much of the country’s democratic gains and freedoms since being elected in 2013.