Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim were transferred from prison to house arrest Friday.
Ahmed Lugman, spokesman for the Maldives Correctional Service, told the Maldives Independent that the high-profile prisoners were transferred for the duration of the fasting month of Ramadan, which began Saturday.
The decision was made by Commissioner of Prisons Ahmed Shihan, he added.
After almost a year under house arrest, Nazim was taken back to jail on March 29 amid a “ramped up crackdown” in the wake of the opposition alliance’s failed bid to remove the speaker of parliament.
Imran was taken back on April 23, hours after the high court upheld his controversial terrorism conviction. He 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.
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 the opposition contended that the move was aimed at appeasing the Commonwealth ahead of a review of the Maldives’ progress on resolving a year-long political crisis. Faced with suspension from the inter-governmental body’s democracy watchdog, the government decided to quit the Commonwealth in October last year.
After their recent transfer to jail, both Nazim and Imran were kept at a special protection unit at the high-security Maafushi prison.
In January, a UN rights panel found that Nazim was not afforded a fair trial following his arrest on weapons smuggling charges and backed the retired colonel’s assertion that the police had framed him.
Both Imran and jailed Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof have also petitioned the specialised UN agency, which previously ruled that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s conviction on a terrorism charge was politically motivated.