Maldives top court suspends sentence to free Adhaalath Party leader

Maldives top court on Thursday suspended religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla's prison sentence and ordered the authorities to release him until a judgement on the review of his jailing.

Imran was sentenced to 12 years in prison for inciting violence during a major opposition protest held in May 2015. Prosecutors had blamed the violence and destruction of property on a speech delivered by Imran during the protest.

The Supreme Court had earlier rejected Imran's final appeal. However, Imran had filed a petition at the apex court seeking a review of its decision to reject his appeal.

The court in an interim order on Thursday said Imran's sentence had been suspended and ordered the authorities to release him until a judgement can be reached on the review.

Imran becomes the latest jailed opposition figure to be released in the wake of the opposition alliance's stunning victory in last month's presidential elections.

The High Court earlier last month had freed jailed former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom before overturning the bribery conviction of Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim on Monday.

Supreme Court meanwhile had also paved the way for self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed's return after the five judge bench effectively ordered the relevant authorities not to arrest him.

In a similar interim order, the top court said the serving of Nasheed's prison sentence has been temporarily suspended until it reviews his jailing as requested by the country's prosecutor's office.

Nasheed has returned to the Maldives earlier Thursday after spending three years in self-imposed exile.