Maldives court frees jailed ex-president Abdulla Yameen, orders fresh trial | World News - Hindustan Times

Maldives court frees jailed ex-president Abdulla Yameen, orders fresh trial

Apr 18, 2024 09:15 PM IST

Former Maldives president Abdulla Yameen is a free man again after a court ruling that set aside his convictions for graft and money laundering.

A high court in Maldives overturned former president Abdulla Yameen's conviction and 11-year prison sentence on graft and money laundering charges, paving the way for his release from jail. A three-judge bench in the archipelago nation held Yameen's 2022 trial as unfair and ordered the lower court to restart the criminal proceedings.

Maldives' former president Abdulla Yameen at a criminal court in Male. (AFP / File)
Maldives' former president Abdulla Yameen at a criminal court in Male. (AFP / File)

"The lower court ruling was not fair," judge Hassan Shafeeu said while reading out a lengthy decision that was broadcast live.

Read: Maldives' opposition parties demand President Mohamed Muizzu's impeachment over alleged corruption

Yameen was convicted in December 2022 of corruption and money laundering over kickbacks from a private company while he was in power between 2013 and 2018.

The trial court found that Yameen accepted a bribe to grant a lease on a small islet for tourism development.

The verdict came ahead of Sunday's parliamentary elections, in which Yameen is fielding candidates from a political party he formed while serving his sentence.

Read: Second batch of Indian military personnel have left Maldives: President Muizzu

Yameen's Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was part of the opposition coalition that launched the ‘India Out’ campaign seeking to exploit anti-India sentiments.

Under Yameen's regime, Maldives' relations with India had nosedived as it moved closer to China by signing up for the Belt and Road Initiative and concluding a Free Trade Agreement with Beijing.

Yameen consolidated power by imprisoning or exiling potential rivals, distancing the Maldives from its traditional allies, and embracing China for investment. He even jailed the man who groomed him for power, his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had been president for 30 years until 2008.

Read: Maldives to hold road shows in India to woo tourists back

However, his authoritarian tactics eventually led to his ousting in the 2018 elections. Yameen initially tried to cling to power following the low-profile Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's victory but the threat of sanctions from the United States forced his hand.

Yameen's subsequent conviction on corruption charges and his imprisonment seemed to mark the end of his political career, only to be overturned by the high court after his ally came to power last year.

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