10/05/2018, 17.12
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Malé: with democracy, opponents return from exile

Qasim Ibrahim, founder of the Jumhooree Party, landed yesterday in the capital's airport. Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was released on bail last week.

Malé (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Exiled opposition leaders are coming home following the recent victory of opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who surprisingly defeated dictator Yameen Abdul Gayoom in the recent presidential elections.

The first to set foot in the world-famous archipelago of white beaches and coral reefs was Qasim Ibrahim, founder of Jumhooree Party (JP). Yesterday he was greeted at the Velana International Airport in Malé by the president-elect himself.

Qasim owns a chain of tourist resorts. He was among dozens of political opponents jailed by former President Gayoom during the country’s constitutional crisis. He went into exile in Germany after undergoing heart surgery in Singapore.

Mohamed Noshed, the country’s first democratically elected president, is set to return next month. He was exiled in Britain and later lived in neighbouring Sri Lanka after being sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges following a 2012 coup.

In February, his acquittal sparked protests, which Gayoom suppressed by imposing a state of emergency and jailing dissidents.

One of the latter was Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the old dictator’s half-brother, who was released on bail last week after Solih's victory.

The archipelago, which is a tourist destination for many western visitors, is made up of 1,192 islands and 26 atolls, and is home to little more than 40,000 people.

Sunni Islam is the state religion and sharia is applied.

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