Abdulla Yameen: Maldives court overturns former president’s 11-year prison sentence

Judge says ‘lower court ruling was not fair’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 19 April 2024 08:17 BST
Former Maldives president Abdulla Yameen
Former Maldives president Abdulla Yameen (AP)

A court in the Maldives has overturned former president Abdulla Yameen's conviction and cancelled his 11-year prison sentence, just two days before the parliamentary elections.

Mr Yameen, 64, was convicted in December 2022 on corruption and money laundering charges related to receiving kickbacks from a private company. He is also on trial for separate bribery charges at the court.

He was sentenced to jail and fined $5m in 2019 for embezzling $1m in state funds, which the prosecution said was acquired through the lease of resort development rights.

A three-judge bench of the high court on Thursday overturned the prison sentence citing procedural irregularities and ordered the lower court to restart the trial.

"The lower court ruling was not fair,” judge Hassan Shafeeu said while reading out the decision, which was broadcast live on the court's YouTube channel.

The bench ruled that due to actions of the lower criminal court, Mr Yameen was unable to exercise his rights. Last year, the former president lost the opportunity to stand in the September presidential elections because of his conviction.

Thursday's ruling is seen as a potential boost to president Mohamed Muizzu's party, which is seeking to secure a majority in the 87-member parliament.

Both politicians have been long political allies, which resulted in Mr Yameen being transferred from prison to house arrest following Mr Muizzu's win in the presidential polls.

Mr Yameen's People's National Front party had supported Mr Muizzu's "India Out" campaign during the elections.

The Muizzu administration has asked dozens of locally based Indian military personnel to leave in a move critics warn could see the archipelagic nation shift closer to China.

Mr Yameen has fielded candidates for Sunday's elections from the political party he formed while serving his sentence.

His co-accused Yusuf Naeem, a businessman who was said to have paid an alleged bribe of $1m, was also freed on Thursday.

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