November 10, 2015 / 12:26 PM / 2 years ago

Maldives lifts state of emergency early, foreign minister says

MALE (Reuters) - The Maldives on Tuesday lifted a state of emergency declared last week and greeted by international criticism, saying security had improved after the authorities detained individuals and seized illegal weapons.

The emergency, intended to be for 30 days, was declared by President Abdulla Yameen on Nov. 4 after officials discovered explosive devices near his residence, as well as stashes of weapons. That followed an explosion on Yameen’s boat in September that the government said was an attempt on his life.

“The security forces are satisfied that they have found most of what was out there and the threat level has been minimized,” Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Maumoon told Reuters in a telephone interview after announcing the decree had been lifted.

She said a “handful” of individuals had been arrested in connection with the alleged assassination attempt and discovery of the explosives, although the hunt for others who were on the run continued.

The emergency, which gave security forces wide-ranging search and arrest powers and suspended citizens’ basic rights, was condemned by the United States and European Union, among others. Maumoon said the government had considered that when it decided to lift the decree.

The Maldives was also worried the emergency would scare away foreign tourists, whose expensive trips to the archipelago’s palm-fringed beaches contribute close to a third of the country’s gross domestic product.

During the emergency, Yameen’s government impeached Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who was arrested in connection with the alleged plot to assassinate the president. Yameen escaped unhurt in the Sept. 28 blast, but his wife and two aides were injured.

The emergency decree is the latest political turmoil to hit the country. Former President Mohamed Nasheed was imprisoned in March for 13 years on terrorism charges following a trial the international community and human rights groups have said was politically motivated.

Maumoon said the opposition was now free to carry out a protest it had planned to hold before the emergency was imposed, calling for Nasheed’s release.

Reporting by Daniel Bosley and Shihar Aneez,; additional reporting and writing by Tommy Wilkes, editing by Larry King

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