COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Maldives' former leader, who is living in exile in London, said Thursday he plans to contest next year's presidential election in his country despite an outstanding prison sentence.
Mohamed Nasheed said he will seek his Maldivian Democratic Party's nomination later this year.
Nasheed was imprisoned in 2015 after receiving a 13-year jail term for ordering the arrest of a senior judge while in office. The following year he received asylum in Britain, where he had traveled for medical treatment.
The Maldives constitution bars anyone sentenced to more than 12 months from contesting elections unless three years have passed since their release or they have been officially pardoned. Nasheed insists his conviction was illegal and he is therefore able to run.
"I can contest. I am a Maldivian national, I must be free to contest and I will contest," Nasheed told reporters in Colombo, the capital of neighboring Sri Lanka, where he met and held discussions with officials of his party.
However, if he is not permitted to run, Nasheed said his party will support a candidate from another party.
"We will not boycott the election," he said.
Nasheed became the Maldives' first democratically elected president in 2008, ending decades of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. He resigned after only three years after losing support over his detention of the top judge. Nasheed maintains that officials who remained loyal to Maumoon had orchestrated a coup.
Nasheed lost the 2013 presidential election to Yameen Abdul Gayoom, a half-brother of Maumoon.
Since his election, Yameen has tightened his grip on power and erased many of the country's recent democratic gains.
A number of political leaders, including Nasheed, two of Gayoom's former allies — a vice-president and a defense minister — and a political party leader have been given lengthy prison sentences after trials on terrorism charges criticized for lack of due process.
Yameen is also accused of using the judiciary, police and bureaucracy to crack down on opponents.
The government tightly controls public gatherings and recently enacted an anti-defamation law with hefty fines and jail terms for journalists and social media users.