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Nasheed announces return to Maldives ‘come what may’

The exiled opposition leader ruled out a deal with “the now defunct Maldives Supreme Court.”



Exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed on Wednesday declared his intention to return to the Maldives, despite a 13-year jail sentence on a controversial terrorism conviction.

The “fugitive” opposition leader, who secured political asylum in the UK after he was granted medical leave from prison, appeared to rule out a deal for his release that would keep the present Supreme Court bench in place.

“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,” he tweeted.

“I will go to the Maldives on 01 November, come what may.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Nasheed informed opposition lawmakers of his plans to return “even if my case is not resolved by then.”

The courts have released several politicians since joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s decisive victory in the September 23 presidential election.

A day after the polls, the criminal court freed three lawmakers and a former police chief charged with terrorism. On Sunday, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim were released on bail by the High Court, pending judgments in appeals of their convictions.

But the Supreme Court has yet to review cases of opposition figures whose convictions were upheld at the final appeal stage, including Nasheed, Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Nasheed was found guilty of ordering the military’s “abduction” of a judge after a widely condemned trial in March 2015.

A UN rights panel ruled that his jailing was illegal and politically motivated. But the government rejected the “non-binding opinion” and the Supreme Court upheld Nasheed’s conviction in June 2016.

The government also remained defiant when the UN Human Rights Committee decided in March this year that Nasheed’s right to contest elections must be restored.

Solih, the opposition parliament leader, was named as an “alternative” candidate to Nasheed.

On February 1, Nasheed was among nine prisoners whose convictions were quashed in a shock ruling by the Supreme Court, which called their trials politically motivated.

President Abdulla Yameen reacted by declaring a state of emergency. The unanimous Supreme Court order was “nullified” by a three-judge bench on February 6, a day after the security forces stormed the court and arrested two of the five justices, including the chief justice.

The Supreme Court was reconstituted after the two justices were convicted and removed from the bench.

On Wednesday night, the “defunct” apex court flexed its muscles and overruled the Elections Commission’s reinstatement of a dozen opposition lawmakers.

Dhiyana Saeed, a former attorney general, suggested that the court has “created a lien over the seats of the 12 MPs and the voices of the citizens they represent – to use it as a bargaining chip to secure their ill-gotten seats.”