Maldives opposition leader returns home to warm welcome after exile in Germany

Qasim Ibrahim welcomed at airport by president-elect after strongman Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s surprise defeat in last month’s election

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 11:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 12:32am

A Maldives opposition leader returned home on Thursday after being exiled in Germany for months to escape a prison sentence on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

Qasim Ibrahim was welcomed at the airport in Male by President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Ibrahim, a businessman who owns a chain of tourist resorts, was among dozens of political opponents who were jailed by outgoing strongman Yameen Abdul Gayoom after trials criticised for lack of due process. He went into exile in Germany after undergoing heart surgery in Singapore.

Maldives’ defeated president, Abdulla Yameen, accused of receiving US$1.5 million in illicit payments before election

“People have spoken. There is no use of acting up now,” Ibrahim said in a brief speech to the gathering that came to greet him, referring to claims by Yameen that there were irregularities in the election process.

“Nothing President Yameen does now will change the people’s decision,” he said.

Yameen has not challenged the election results despite claiming irregularities.

Ibrahim is the first exiled opposition leader to return home after Yameen’s election defeat last month. He has been allowed bail after Solih’s victory.

Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected president, is to return next month. He had been exiled in Britain and later lived in neighbouring Sri Lanka after being sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges.

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Ibrahim was arrested last year and sentenced to more than three years in prison after he joined other party leaders in forming an opposition alliance to unseat Yameen.

Yameen’s defeat by Solih in last month’s presidential election is seen as a second chance for Maldives’ young democracy, established 10 years ago.

Yameen had rolled back much of the democratic gains – jailing opponents and wresting control of the military, police, courts, bureaucracy and the elections commission.