In a joyous victory for the human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney was all smiles Thursday after greeting former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who was tasting freedom for the first time in months.
Standing alongside co-counsel Jared Genser, the pair grinned as they welcomed a beaming Nasheed to Heathrow Airport, who was granted a temporary release from a prison in his home country after being found guilty last March in a trial described as a “mockery” of justice.
Both Clooney, 37, and Genser have continued to vigorously defend Nasheed, whom they feel has been wrongly imprisoned by a government that has a dangerous disregard for human rights and the democratic process.
Nasheed was granted permission to travel to London to undergo spinal surgery just days after Clooney sat down with NBC to make the case for sanctions to win his freedom.
Clooney told NBC News on Thursday that Nasheed’s arrival in London brought him “one step closer to justice.”
“But there’s still a lot to do,” she continued. “There are still grave problems in the Maldives and we have a lot to discuss.”
Nasheed looked elated as he arrived in London to reunite with his family, who have been living in self-exile in Britain, but acknowledged the unknown road ahead.
“I feel strange and uncertain. Just two days ago I was in solitary. And now I’m able to be free, at least right now,” Nasheed said. “I’d like to thank everyone who made this possible. Especially my lawyers. Everyone – the people of the Maldives who worked so hard.”
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Nasheed – who Clooney has described as “the Mandela of the Maldives” – received a 13-year sentence in March under “anti-terror” laws. The first democratically elected president of the tiny island, Nasheed contends he was forced out of office in 2012 as part of a gunpoint coup, while the government claims it was a voluntary resignation. A United Nations official has said his trial was a “mockery” of justice.
NBC News reports Nasheed is required to return within 45 days to finish out his 13-year sentence, and Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told the outlet earlier this week she had no idea whether the nation will extradite him if he fails to return.
Just last week, Clooney met with lawmakers including Sen. John McCain on Capital Hill to discuss human rights in the Maldives, the plight of her client and possible sanctions against the Maldivian government.
Nasheed’s freedom comes the same week Clooney announced her latest case. The London barrister recently signed on to represent Azerbaijani radio host Khadija Ismayilova before the European Court of Human Rights.