Maldives' Supreme Court stays Mohamed Nasheed's 13-year jail sentence; exiled former president to go home on 1 November

The Maldives’ Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence on terrorism charges, allowing him to go home this week.

FP Staff October 31, 2018 18:47:20 IST
Maldives' Supreme Court stays Mohamed Nasheed's 13-year jail sentence; exiled former president to go home on 1 November

The Maldives’ Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence on terrorism charges, allowing him to go home this week. Nasheed has said he will return on Thursday. The Supreme Court also reinstated 12 opposition lawmakers who were stripped of their seats when they defected to the opposition in 2017.

The move comes days before newly elected President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is scheduled to take his oath of office. Solih, a close ally of Nasheed, unseated former pro-China leader Abdulla Yameen in the 23 September poll by a 16.8 percent margin.

The Indian Express quoted Nasheed as saying, "I am going back to my country after three years to see a democracy that is showing signs of strength. Of course, this is a transition stage, it is a long process. But I would say that Maldives democracy is getting strengthened now."

Maldives Supreme Court stays Mohamed Nasheeds 13year jail sentence exiled former president to go home on 1 November

File photo of former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed. AP

The stay order came two days before Nasheed is to return to the Maldives after living in exile for more than two years, and appears to be a move by the incoming Solih government to prevent his arrest on arrival.

The Muslim-majority tourist paradise has been in political upheaval since February, when a state of emergency was imposed by Yameen to annul a court ruling that quashed the convictions in criminal cases of nine opposition leaders, including Nasheed.

Who is Mohamed Nasheed?

Mohamed Nasheed is the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. He is also a respected human rights activist and was elected as president in the island nation's first free polls after the end of the 30-year autocratic rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008. According to reports, the trial in which Nasheed was convicted for terrorism charges and sentenced to 13 years in jail, was widely criticised for being unfair.

The United Nations also termed the trial as 'politically motivated'.

Nasheed was found guilty by a three-judge bench of terrorism in a unanimous verdict in 2015. The Guardian had reported, "The political struggle in the island nation sets Nasheed, who has favoured a pro-western foreign policy and launched efforts to counter growing local Islamic conservatism, against more rightwing elements, many close to the former regime."

The report added that India was among the countries which had expressed concern about the treatment that the former Maldivian president was subjected to.

Why did Nasheed go into exile?

Nasheed is returning to The Maldives after almost two years in exile in Britain. In addition to terrorism charges, Nasheed was sentenced to jail for allegedly ordering the abduction of a judge after a rushed and widely criticised trial in March 2015. He went into exile during a medical trip to Britain. Britain gave him asylum when he reached the UK. He later based himself in neighbouring Sri Lanka for political work.

Nasheed had said he will return to the Maldives on 1 November, "come what may". Referring to Yameen's crackdown on the judiciary, he had tweeted, "If we at this juncture try to find an amicable arrangement for my freedom with the now-defunct Maldives Supreme Court, it will not further our ambitions for judicial reform in the Maldives. I will go to the Maldives on 01 November, come what may."

The Maldives, located near key shipping lanes, has become a battleground for China and India as they compete for influence in the region.

With inputs from agencies

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