Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has returned home from exile days after the country’s Supreme Court stayed his 13-year sentence on terrorism charges.
Nasheed arrived at the Indian Ocean nation’s airport island on Thursday after more than two years in exile, and traveled by boat parade to the capital, Male, where thousands of yellow-clad supporters lined the streets to greet him.
The 51-year-old democracy champion’s return follows the defeat of President Abdulla Yameen in a September 23 election by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the nominee of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Nasheed was branded a fugitive from justice when he went into exile in 2016 after seeking medical treatment abroad while serving the jail sentence.
He risked arrest if he ever returned to the country under Yameen, who jailed or exiled most of his opponents.
However, the strongman leader suffered a surprise defeat last month in an election and must leave office on November 17.
Nasheed had hoped to run against Yameen but was barred by the election commission.
Since Yameen’s defeat, political prisoners have been freed and exiles have returned from abroad as the Maldives prepares a transition to new leadership.
The Supreme Court earlier this week suspended Nasheed’s prison sentence until it reviews his conviction at the request of the prosecutor general, a move to prevent his arrest on arrival.
Elected president in the country’s first democratic poll in 2008, Nasheed was found guilty of terror-related violence in 2015 in a trial the UN said was politically motivated.