Hours after the country's president declared a state of emergency, Maldives security forces forced their way into the Supreme Court building and early Tuesday arrested Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge.
Police said in a Twitter message they had arrested Saeed and Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed "for an ongoing investigation." They gave no details about the allegations or charges against the two judges.
Security forces also on Monday arrested the country's former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the ex-president's spokesman said.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency after refusing to comply with a Supreme Court order to release detained political leaders.
"During this time, though certain rights will be restricted, general movements, services and businesses will not be affected," a statement issued by the president's office said.
"The Government of Maldives wishes to also assure all Maldivians and the international community that the safety of all Maldivians and foreigners living in and visiting the Maldives will be ensured," it added.
Yameen's administration defied the top court's order last week to release the prisoners, and Monday asked the court to revoke it.
Human rights group Amnesty International denounced the state of emergency Monday, warning that it may lead to "further repression" of human rights in the country.
"The declaration of the state of emergency in the Maldives is an extremely worrying development that comes at a time of heightened political anxieties in the country. But respect for human rights must not become another casualty of this ongoing political crisis," Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s deputy South Asia director, said in a statement.
The White House National Security Council issued a statement saying the United States stands with the people of Maldives.
"The Maldivian government and military must respect the rule of law, freedom of expression and democratic institutions. The world is watching," the NSC said in a tweet.
America stands with the people of Maldives. The Maldivian government and military must respect the rule of law, freedom of expression, and democratic institutions. The world is watching.— NSC (@WHNSC) February 5, 2018
In nearby India, the External Affairs Ministry issued an advisory asking Indians to defer all non-essential travel to Maldives until further notice, and urged Indian expatriates to remain on alert, given the security situation.
China's foreign minister spokesman told reporters on Monday that Beijing is closely following the situation in Maldives and called on authorities there to take the necessary steps to protect the security of Chinese firms, institutions and personnel.
Democratic gains in the Maldives have eroded under the leadership of Yameen, who has conducted a crackdown on the opposition and the press.