The Supreme Court has overturned former president Mohamed Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence after a review of the controversial terrorism conviction.
He was wrongfully charged and the criminal court should not have proceeded to trial, the apex court ruled Monday.
Nasheed, who was greeted by celebrating supporters when he emerged from the courthouse, told reporters it was clear his political career was not over and praising the “courage and unshakable resolve” of the public for securing his freedom.
The judgment has also made clear he was put on trial by the influence of former president Abdulla Yameen, he added.
The court had suspended Nasheed’s sentence last month after the Prosecutor General’s office sought a review of the decision to uphold the verdict in June 2016. A stay order cleared the way for his return on November 1 after nearly three years in exile.
It came amidst the release of political prisoners after Yameen’s heavy defeat in September’s election.
Nasheed was found guilty of ordering the military’s “abduction” of the criminal court’s chief judge in January 2012.
But criminal charges could not be raised against the commander-in-chief for an unlawful arrest by the Maldives National Defence Force, his lawyer argued at court earlier this month.
The 19-day trial in March 2015 was widely criticised over apparent due process violations.
In September 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled Nasheed’s jailing was illegal and politically motivated. But the previous administration rejected the “non-binding opinion” and also remained defiant when the UN Human Rights Committee decided in March this year that Nasheed’s right to contest elections must be restored.
Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who defeated Yameen as the joint opposition candidate, was named as an “alternative” candidate to Nasheed, who was barred from contesting due to the terrorism conviction.
“President Nasheed’s entire trial was a politically-motivated sham. It is appalling that an innocent man was unjustly forced to spend a year in jail, 35 months’ in exile, and was prevented from standing for political office,” said his legal counsel Hisaan Hussain.