The exiled former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, withdrew on Friday his candidacy for September’s contentious elections against incumbent Abdulla Yameen who has jailed all his main rivals.
Nasheed announced his decision after being informed by the national electoral commission that he was disqualified from running in the September 23 vote in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.
‘I have decided to relinquish my Presidential ticket,’ he said on Twitter, calling the electoral commission’s decision - which it says was due to Nasheed’s terrorism conviction - ‘illegal’.
He added however that his Maldivian Democratic Party would still contest the election and would appoint another candidate in his place.
Yameen has ruled the Maldives, better known abroad as an up-market tourist destination, with an iron fist since 2013, launching a crackdown on dissent that has seen two of the country’s former leaders put behind bars.
Nasheed was convicted of terrorism in 2015 in a case widely decried by rights groups as politically motivated, and handed a 13-year jail sentence.
He was allowed to go to London in 2016 for medical treatment and has remained there in exile since, vowing however to return for the election.
Among those in jail are Yameen’s half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a former strongman who ruled the Sunni Muslim country of 340,000 people for 30 years until 2008.
He was arrested along with the chief justice and the supreme court justice in February for their alleged role in clearing the way for an impeachment of Yameen.
Yameen declared a state of emergency which removed parliament’s power to remove him from office.
The United States and the European Union have expressed deep concern over Yameen’s actions while in power.
Nasheed became the country’s first democratically elected president in 2008 but was forced out of office in 2012 in what he said was a coup backed by Islamic extremists and rogue elements of the police and the military.
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