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Maldives President not attempting to flee country: Spokesperson

Yameen Abdul Gayoom

Male, Feb 4 (UITV/IANS) - Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom is not attempting to flee the country, his spokesperson has said, refuting rumours that the leader was planning on travelling to Singapore amid the turmoil after the top court's landmark order to free former President Mohamed Nasheed along with other high-profile prisoners.

Gayoom's spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali on Friday tweeted that the "talk was all false and that the picture of a ticket being spread in the social media, purportedly belong to President Yameen, was falsified".

He called "the rumours a deliberate attempt to spread fear and panic".

The Supreme Court on Thursday night ordered an immediate release of the jailed politicians, including Nasheed, and said the "questionable and politically motivated nature of the trials of the political leaders warrant a re-trial".

It ordered the re-reinstatement of the 12 members who had been stripped of their seats for "defecting". The decision effectively gave the opposition a majority in Parliament, which has the power to impeach the President.

India along with the UN, the US, Australia, Britain and Canada had welcomed the court's decision as "a move towards restoring democracy in the politically troubled Indian Ocean nation".

Hundreds of Nasheed supporters took to the streets to celebrate the ruling but clashes broke out after Gayoom fired the country's police chief, whose department had announced that it would uphold the verdict.

The government said it had concerns about releasing those who convicted for "terrorism, graft, embezzlement and treason".

Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, took office in 2008. He was ousted in a coup in February 2012

The country has seen political unrest since he was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2015 on terrorism charges. He was given political asylum in the UK in 2016.

After the Supreme Court's ruling, Nasheed called Gayoom to resign and said he planned to return to Male,

The Maldivian opposition accused Yameen of resisting local and global pressure to comply with the court's order, reports said. In a joint statement, the opposition parties said they feared "the regime will ignore the release order triggering further unrest in the nation".

"Although Yameen has said he will abide by the ruling, he is yet to comply with the order delivered more than 36 hours ago," Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said.

Meanwhile, the opening of the country's Parliament which was scheduled for Monday and due to be addressed by Yameen, was cancelled indefinitely for "security reasons", the Maldives Independent reported.

Former Solicitor General and constitutional lawyer, Ibrahim Riffath, told the daily "it was possible the cancellation was to deter a potential impeachment motion against the Parliament Speaker".