COLOMBO – The Supreme Court of Maldives dropped all charges against former president Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition leaders and asked them to be released immediately, pending a retrial.
The top court also decided to withdraw charges against nine political prisoners, after concluding that “criminal proceedings were conducted based on political motivations (...) and the rulings were given subject to undue influence over judiciary and the prosecutor.”
“The court finds these cases require retrials and judgments pursuant to the law and until a final verdict is reached, the court orders their immediate release,” the Supreme Court ruled.
Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and Attorney General Muhuthaz Muhsin, who were accused of trying to assassinate the president in 2016 while still in office, and who were handed 15 and 17-year sentences, respectively, were also among those released.
The court’s decision would now allow Nasheed – who is living in exile in London after he was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2015 – to return to the archipelago and contest upcoming general elections.
“Welcome tonight’s SC ruling calling for the immediate release of political prisoners and the restoration of their civil and political rights. President Yameen must abide by this ruling and resign,” tweeted the former president Friday.
The opposition coalition, including Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), requested the security forces to comply with the ruling and respect the rule of law and the Constitution, in a statement.
“The Supreme Court’s verdict effectively ends President Yameen’s authoritarian rule,” said the opposition coalition.
The court also reinstated 12 lawmakers in its ruling.
The administration was currently working to vet and clarify the ruling and the Attorney General “would work to engage and consult with the Supreme Court, in order to comply with the ruling, in line with proper procedure and the rule of law,” the President’s office said in a statement Friday.
Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader, was jailed over charges related to ordering the arrest of a judge during his tenure.
Maldives has been steeped in serious institutional and political crisis since an explosion on the president’s ship in which the first lady was injured.