Colombo: The main opposition in the Maldives Saturday demanded the immediate release of their leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed, a day after the government announced the unusual step of appealing his controversial conviction.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the government of President Abdulla Yameen must honour commitments made during their closed-door talks earlier this month aimed at ending political unrest in the honeymoon islands.
"Government officials, negotiating on behalf of President Yameen, made a number of promises during the talks," the MDP said in a statement.
"These include the release of high profile political prisoners, including (former) president Nasheed, and the quashing of criminal charges against some 1,700 people who have been targeted for their political activities."
The statement came a day after Nasheed`s international lawyer Jared Genser announced in Colombo that his client`s 13-year jail sentence on a terrorism charge had been commuted to house arrest.
The United Nations had described Nasheed`s jailing in March after a quick-fire trial as "vastly unfair" while Washington had warned the conviction meant the upmarket tourist destination`s fledgling democracy was in danger.
But in a surprise announcement, the government on Friday sought to distance itself from the conviction before later confirming Nasheed was no longer behind bars and could remain under house arrest.
Nasheed had been incarcerated in a prison on a remote island after his sentencing but in June was moved to the main island of Male for medical treatment.
However, the MDP said the decision to commute Nasheed`s sentence to house arrest was not enough.
It said it had delivered on its side of the bargain to provide parliamentary support for the sacking of Yameen`s vice president Mohamed Jameel on treason charges this week, among other things.
It also supported Yameen`s legislative program to allow foreign ownership of land for the first time in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
"The MDP believes that the government of (the) Maldives must (now) follow through on its commitments before the independence day celebrations on July 26 (Sunday)," the MDP statement said. "The MDP negotiated in good faith."
The party insisted that Nasheed must be freed without any further constraints.
Supporters of Nasheed, the archipelago`s first democratically-elected leader before being toppled in 2012, have maintained the conviction was part of a strategy by President Yameen`s regime to silence him.
The sentencing on March 13 came less than a month after his arrest on February 22.
The Maldivian criminal court held that Nasheed had ordered the arrest of a judge accused of corruption before he was forced out by a police and military mutiny in February 2012. The courts said that Nasheed`s order amounted to terrorism.