Court suspends arrest warrant of Maldives ex-leader Nasheed

AFP Colombo, Sri Lanka Oct 30, 2018, 07.09 PM(IST)

File photo: Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed. Photograph:( Reuters )

The Maldives top court suspended an arrest warrant for Mohamed Nasheed on Tuesday, paving the way for the country's first democratically elected president to return from exile next month.

The Supreme Court ruled Nasheed could not be detained by police or prison authorities until his appeal against his controversial 13 year jail sentence for terrorism is heard.

Nasheed has branded a fugitive from justice when he went into exile in 2016 after seeking medical treatment abroad. 

He risked arrest if he ever returned to the Maldives under President Abdulla Yameen, who jailed or exiled most of his opponents.

But the strongman leader suffered a surprise defeat last month and vacates the top job on November 17.

"I will go to the Maldives on 1 November, come what may," Nasheed said at the start of October.

Nasheed, long de facto opposition leader from his base in Sri Lanka, had hoped to run against Yameen but was barred by the elections commission.

Instead an alternative candidate -- the little-known Ibrahim Mohamed Solih -- was fielded and won, despite Yameen stifling opposition campaigning.

Since then, political prisoners have been freed and exiles have returned from abroad as the Maldives prepares to transition to new leadership.

Elected president in the Maldives first democratic poll in 2008, Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in 2015 in a trial the UN said was politically motivated.

He was sentenced to 13 years behind bars but went into exile after leaving the Maldives for hospital treatment.

His appeal against the sentence has languished before the courts for many years.