The Latest: UN chief calls on Maldives to respect court

A Maldivian opposition protestor reacts as he attends a protest demanding the release of political prisoners in Male, Maldives, Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Supporters of political parties that oppose the Maldives government have clashed with police on the streets of the capital after the country's supreme court ordered the release of imprisoned politicians.(AP Photo/Mohamed Sharuhaan)

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on the Maldives government to respect the Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of political prisoners and the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers.

MALE, Maldives — The Latest on turmoil in the Maldives after the Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of political prisoners (all times local):

7:30 a.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on the Maldives government to respect the Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of political prisoners and the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers.

Hundreds of opposition supporters have been demanding the prisoners' freedom outside the penitentiary in the capital Male for the second day Saturday but police forced them to leave. They then moved to another location for a sit-in that was also broken up.

The Indian Ocean island-nation's attorney general raised government concerns about the ruling with the chief justice because he says the imprisoned politicians were convicted of offenses including terrorism, corruption, embezzlement and treason. The Supreme Court says the convictions were politically influenced.

President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has been set to run for re-election this year virtually unopposed, with all of his opponents either jailed or exiled.

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6:30 p.m.

Two people have been arrested in clashes between Maldives police and opposition supporters who were urging the government to obey a Supreme Court order to release a group of nine political prisoners.

Hundreds of people gathered in Male, the capital, a day after the court's decision that the dissidents' guilty verdicts had been influenced by politics. It ordered new trials for all nine.

A scuffle erupted when police asked the protesters to stay clear of a road. Police used batons and pepper spray to disperse the protesters.

Earlier, the government fired the country's police chief after his department announced it would uphold the Supreme Court verdict.

An archipelago known for its luxury tourist resorts, the Maldives became a multiparty democracy 10 years ago.

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4:40 p.m.

Amnesty International says a Maldives Supreme Court ruling overturning the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition leaders should be a turning point for the archipelago nation.

Amnesty International's South Asia director, Biraj Patnaik, says the ruling must be implemented and what he called the government's "witch-hunt against the political opposition and other critics" must come to an end.

He said re-trials of the opposition leaders must be conducted in line with international standards, and authorities must restore judicial independence.

He said Nasheed's conviction in 2015 on terrorism charges was politically motivated.

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4:10 p.m.

India says the government of Maldives should respect and abide by a Supreme Court order setting aside the convictions of former President Mohamed Nasheed and eight other opposition politicians.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumarsaid says India, as a close and friendly neighbor, wishes to see a stable, peaceful and prosperous Maldives.

He said Friday that India also hopes that Maldives will ensure the safety of Indian citizens there.

Clashes erupted in the Maldives' capital after the surprise Supreme Court ruling Thursday night.

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3:30 p.m.

The exiled former president of the Maldives told the AP on Friday that he will run again for office, hours after a surprise Supreme Court ruling to free a group of political prisoners led to unrest in the capital of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Current President Yameen Abdul Gayoom had been set to run for re-election virtually unopposed, with all of his opponents either jailed or exiled.

But ex-President Mohammed Nasheed, who is among the prisoners ordered freed, says he will challenge Yameen, saying "I can contest and I will contest and hopefully we will win it again."

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1:55 p.m.

The exiled former president of the Maldives has called on the government to abide by a Supreme Court ruling to free a group of political prisoners, hours after clashes erupted in the Indian Ocean archipelago's capital in the wake of the surprise verdict.

Speaking to the AP in Colombo in neighboring Sri Lanka, ex-President Mohammed Nasheed also called for reforms in the country's security services, saying "a small element within the military and police want to prop up the dictatorship" of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who has rolled back many democratic reforms since coming to power five years ago.

Nasheed, who lives in exile, is among the politicians ordered freed by the Supreme Court.

Male was quiet early Friday afternoon, but an opposition leader says Yameen's opponents are planning further protests.

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12:45 p.m.

An opposition leader in the Maldives says government opponents will keep up their protests until the political prisoners ordered freed by the Supreme Court are released. The Thursday night court order led to hours of violent protests overnight in the capital.

The opposition leader was speaking from Male, the capital, on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals by authorities who have already imprisoned numerous politicians.

The politician says while Male was quiet Friday morning, the opposition is planning further protests.

Politics have become sharply divided in the Indian ocean archipelago in recent years, with President Yameen Abdul Gayoom rolling back many democratic reforms after a longtime strongman was voted from office in 2008.

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10:30 a.m.

The streets of the Maldives capital are calm Friday morning, with offices open and people heading to work, hours after clashes broke out following a Supreme Court verdict ordering the release of political prisoners.

Opposition celebrations in Male turned into clashes with police after the Indian Ocean nation's president fired the country's police chief, whose department said it would uphold the court ruling. At least one policeman was injured in the violence, which lasted about three hours.

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10:20 a.m.

The clashes that broke out overnight in the Maldives began after the Indian Ocean nation's president fired the country's police chief, whose department said it would uphold a Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of political prisoners.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil says the police chief was fired after President Yameen Abdul Gayoom was repeatedly unable to reach him on the phone. Yameen named the police chief's deputy as interim head of the force.

After the firing was announced, clashes began between police and hundreds of flag-waving supporters of ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, who lives in exile in Britain. The court ruling could allow Nasheed, the nation's first democratically elected president, to challenge Yameen when he seeks re-election later this year.

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9:15 a.m.

The U.S. ambassador to the Maldives has welcomed the Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of political prisoners, including exiled ex-President Mohamed Nasheed.

Ambassador Atul Keshap wrote on Twitter: "I urge the government and security services to respect this ruling, which bolsters democracy and rule of law for all Maldivians."

Clashes broke out in Male, the capital of the Indian Ocean island nation, after the court ruling was announced Thursday night with opposition protesters demanding the release of the prisoners.

The ruling could allow Nasheed, the nation's first democratically elected president, to challenge President Yameen Abdul Gayoom when he seeks re-election later this year. Nasheed now lives in exile in Britain.

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