By KRISHAN FRANCIS, Associated Press
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Maldives’ judicial authorities have suspended 56 lawyers after they accused the country’s courts and other institutions of not upholding the rule of law, a lawyer said Monday.
The indefinite suspensions were announced Sunday night, hours after the lawyers submitted a petition to the attorney general complaining that courts were conducting cases in haste behind closed doors, according to Husnu Suood, who heads the private Maldives Lawyers’ Association.
The petition cited court violations especially in cases against opposition politicians.
The same lawyers had earlier tried to bring these issues to the Supreme Court, but their document was rejected, Suood said.
In suspending the lawyers, the Department of Judicial Administration offered no hearing. It said the lawyers were in contempt of court for signing a petition it said was illegal, but it did not explain why it was illegal.
Suood said the lawyers planned to challenge their suspension, based on the fact that the judicial department is an administrative arm of the Supreme Court. They would argue that only the Supreme Court has the authority to suspend them.
President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has been accused of manipulating the judiciary and other state institutions to block opposition to his rule.
Dozens of opposition politicians have been jailed in recent years, including a former president, a former vice president, a defense minister and a former presidential candidate. Those trials were criticized locally and internationally for a lack of due process.
The Maldives, known for its luxury island resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. It has lost many of its democratic gains since Gayoom was elected to power in 2013.