MALE: The Maldives appointed a new chief justice on Thursday, two weeks after a court convicted his predecessor and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of obstruction of justice and jailed them for 19 months.
The trials were widely seen as part of a plan by President Abdulla Yameen to tighten his grip on power ahead of elections in September at which he seeks a second five-year term against an opposition yet to decide on a single candidate. The government denies this.
Supreme Court Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi took his oath of office on Thursday. He replaces former chief justice Abdulla Saeed who was sacked last week.
The country of 400,000 people is popular with tourists but has seen political unrest since its first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, was forced to quit amid a police mutiny in 2012.
Nasheed was convicted of terrorism charges in 2015 and sentenced to 13 years after a trial criticized as unfair. But he was allowed to go on medical leave to Britain, where he was granted political asylum.
The Indian Ocean island chain has faced upheaval since February, when Yameen, half brother of Gayoom, imposed a 45-day state of emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including Nasheed.
During the emergency, authorities arrested the three men and a Supreme Court administrator on charges of trying to overthrow the government. They still face those charges.
The opposition has accused Yameen’s government of jailing leaders who could challenge Yameen’s re-election bid, a charge the government denies.