Mohamed Nasheed - the Maldives' first democratically elected leader - was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2015 for ordering the arrest of a senior judge while in office.
He traveled to the UK in January on medical leave apparently to undergo back surgery.
A fair trial?
Elected to office in 2008 in the country's first free election that ended decades of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Nasheed ordered the arrest of a judge whom he accused of bias and corruption in 2012, leading to weeks of public protests followed by his resignation.
Nasheed's trial under Maldives' terrorism law was widely criticized for its apparent lack of due process. The UN working group on arbitrary detention also declared his jailing illegal and called for his release.
Free to fight another day
Nasheed's office in a statement quoted him as saying that "President Yameen has jailed every opposition leader and cracked down on anyone who dares to oppose or criticize him. In the past year, freedom of the press, expression and assembly have all been lost."
"Given the slide towards authoritarianism in the Maldives, myself and other opposition politicians feel we have no choice but to work in exile - for now."
The Maldives foreign ministry said in a statement it was concerned about the reports of Nasheed's political asylum, though said it had yet to be officially confirmed.
"Further, the Government of the Maldives is disappointed, if confirmed, that the UK government is allowing itself to be part of this charade, and further, is enabling an individual to circumvent his obligations under the law," the foreign ministry said.
Britain's Home Office said in a statement that it does not comment on individual asylum cases.
jbh/bw (AP, Reuters)