Officials in the Maldives have suspended at least 54 lawyers and have charged them with contempt of court for filing a petition demanding the rule of law in the South Asian archipelago.
The Department of Judicial Administration said the lawyers had violated several rules by filing the petition and had created “difficulties for the Maldivian judiciary” by signing the document.
The ban applies to a third of the lawyers in private practice in the Maldives.
A statement from the lawyers said “An immediate practical implication of the suspension is that individuals unfairly targeted by President [Abdulla] Yameen’s regime will find it virtually impossible to find effective legal counsel.”
The French news agency, AFP, reports the lawyers affected by the ban include the entire legal team of exiled opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, the lawyers of other dissidents, a former attorney general and several opposition lawmakers.
Nasheed was the country’s first democratically elected leader and is now living in exile in Britain.
Democratic gains in the Maldives have eroded under the leadership of President Abdulla Yameen, who has also conducted a crackdown on the press.