The Maldives government announced Saturday it will allow jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed to travel to the United Kingdom for back surgery on the condition he return to serve out a 13-year sentence that has drawn international condemnation.
The announcement comes just days after Nasheed's lawyer, human rights attorney Amal Clooney, who is married to activist actor-director George Clooney, went to Washington to lobby lawmakers for targeted sanctions against government leaders.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News during her Washington trip, Clooney said that Nasheed urgently needed medical treatment.
"He needs a special kind of micro-surgery on his back. He's actually losing the ability to feel the left side of his body and he needs urgent surgery," Clooney told NBC News' Cynthia McFadden last week.
"The government has refused to allow him out to get that surgery abroad, which is where it would be appropriate for it to be dispensed. And even locally, he hasn't been able to get to a hospital to get that done. So it's a really concerning situation."
Nasheed served three years as president after the first democratic elections in the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago. Soon after leaving office in what he claims was a gunpoint coup, he was charged with abduction for ordering the arrest of a judge while he was in office.
His trial has been condemned by the United Nations as a "mockery."
Clooney is pushing the Obama administration to impose travel bans and asset freezes on regime officials responsible for keeping Nasheed locked up.
She told NBC News that "democracy is dead" in the Maldives and that political repression, abuse of women, and Islamic jihadism are on the rise.
The Maldives did not respond to requests for comment last week on Clooney's charges. But on Saturday, the Ministry of foreign affairs suddenly announced it had approved the medical trip.
"Former President Mohamed Nasheed was granted permission under the condition to serve the remainder of the sentence upon return to the Maldives after the surgery," it said.
No details of when Nasheed will be allowed to leave the country were provided.