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Last Updated: Friday, 8 October, 2004, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Maldives eases state of emergency
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
President Gayoom has been ruling the Maldives since 1978
The government of the Maldives has restored some of the rights removed under the state of emergency it declared in August.

The relaxations include allowing anyone held for more than 24 hours to be told the reasons for their detention.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom declared the state of emergency on 14 August after a mass pro-democracy protest.

Pro-democracy activists have dismissed the moves as cosmetic and aimed at deflecting international criticism.

EU aid

The Indian Ocean republic said in a statement that the International Committee of the Red Cross would be allowed to visit for the first time detainees held under emergency rule.

It also said the rights of alleged juvenile offenders were being restored, but gave no further details.

1,200 islands in archipelago
Population is around 300,000
One-party rule since 1978
Low-lying islands vulnerable to rise in sea-levels

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which is based in Sri Lanka, said the moves were aimed at deflecting international unease.

Last month, the European parliament proposed blocking an aid package worth $2m and called for jailed dissidents to be released immediately.

MDP spokesman, Mohamed Latheef, said: "What is the point in allowing legal representation for detainees when the country's two top human rights lawyers are already behind bars?"

The ban on public meetings, protests and criticism of the government is still in place and 78 of 185 arrested protesters remain in jail.

The crackdown followed a protest by about 3,000 pro-democracy demonstrators on 13 August in the capital, Male.

The Maldives has no multi-party democracy and Mr Gayoom has been in power since 1978.

The government says it is committed to democratic reforms.

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Country profile: The Maldives
05 Sep 03  |  Country profiles

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