Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla were taken back to jail on Friday after spending Ramadan under house arrest.
In his first media interview since his arrest in May 2015, Imran told the opposition-aligned Raajje TV before he was picked up from his home in Malé that the opposition alliance is on the cusp of “a complete victory”.
“We’re being taken back because the opposition’s efforts have been strengthening and growing and President [Abdulla] Yameen cannot stay still for a moment with us at home,” he said, urging opposition supporters to “remain steadfast and not back down.”
The opposition has been trying to challenge Yameen’s previously unassailable parliament majority since former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom signed a pact with former President Mohamed Nasheed, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, and Sheikh Imran.
The new alliance failed to remove Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed with defections from the divided ruling party in late March, but senior opposition figures have been claiming that the balance of power in the 85-member house will shift once the People’s Majlis reopens after the Eid holidays.
Imran was sentenced to 12 years in jail over his speech at a 25,000-strong protest march in May 2015. The widely condemned conviction marked the first terrorism sentence passed in the Maldives over a speech made at a political gathering.
Nazim was found guilty of weapons smuggling and sentenced to 11 years in prison. In January, a UN rights panel found that Nazim was not afforded a fair trial and backed the retired colonel’s assertion that the police had framed him.
Last week, jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb meanwhile wrote to the supreme court saying that the pistol found inside Nazim’s apartment did not belong to him.
Adeeb, who Nazim has maintained ordered rogue policemen to plant the pistol and bullets in his bedroom, also offered to testify at court about how Nazim was framed.
Nazim and Imran were transferred to house arrest for the duration of the fasting month in late May.
After nearly a year under house arrest, both were previously taken back to jail amidst a “ramped up crackdown” in the wake of the opposition alliance’s failed bid to remove the speaker of parliament in late March.
The pair was released to house arrest in April last year with the home ministry citing maintenance at the special protection unit at the low-security Asseyri jail on the island of Himmafushi.
But after their transfer to jail earlier this year, both Nazim and Imran were kept at a special protection unit at the high-security Maafushi prison.
According to the opposition coalition’s spokesman MP Ahmed Mahloof, Imran is now being kept at the U2 unit along with convicts serving lengthy sentences for serious crimes.
The move is a punishment for Imran’s media interview, he alleged.