June 1, 2016 / 2:13 PM / in 3 years

Ousted Maldives president forms opposition-in-exile group

Former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, reacts during a news conference in central London, Britain January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters) - Mohamed Nasheed, a former president of the Maldives now in exile in Britain after being ousted from office and jailed in his country, formed an opposition group on Wednesday aimed at toppling the government of President Abdulla Yameen.

Best known as a paradise for wealthy tourists, the Indian Ocean archipelago has been mired in political unrest since Nasheed, its first democratically elected leader, was ousted in disputed circumstances in 2012.

He was sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges after a trial in 2015 that was widely denounced as politically motivated, but flew to Britain in January after Yameen came under international pressure to let him leave.

He was given permission to stay away for 30 days for medical treatment but has remained in Britain since then and was last month granted refugee status by the British authorities, according to his lawyer.

At an event in London, Nasheed teamed up with Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who was Yameen’s running mate in 2013 but was sacked and accused of treason last year, to form a group calling itself the “Maldives United Opposition”.

“We must understand that we have to come together. We have to be able to sit down, bridge our differences and hope for a better country,” Nasheed said.

The Maldives government has criticized Nasheed for his activities since he arrived in Britain, saying it had acted in good faith by letting him travel abroad to seek treatment for a back condition but his medical leave had become “media leave”.

Reporting by Georgina Cooper; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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