Former Maldives president Yameen acquitted in graft case; top court overturns conviction

In what is seen as a politically significant development, the Maldives Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of former president Abdullah Yameen in a money laundering case where he had been sentenced to five years in prison

Nov 30, 2021
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Former Maldives president Yameen

In what is seen as a politically significant development, the Maldives Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of former president Abdullah Yameen in a money laundering case where he had been sentenced to five years in prison. Yameen was released on Tuesday from house arrest in Male after the court ruling. 

In 2019, a lower court sentenced Yameen to five years in jail and imposed a $5 million fine for embezzling $1 million in state funds. Later, a high court also upheld his conviction. In 2020, he has been put under house arrest because of the Covid-19.

On Tuesday, a three-member Supreme Court bench ruled in his favor, overturning his conviction, citing lack of evidence in the case. Yameen is expected to return to active politics. Experts say he may be the frontrunner in the next presidential election due in 2023.  

A few weeks ago his conviction by the lower court came under scrutiny amid allegations of interference from the president’s office. Leaked audiotapes of three of the five Maldivian judges, who convicted Yameen, appeared to show that his trial was influenced by the current government. The judges, however, rejected the tapes, terming them fake. 

Yameen, who served as Maldives' president from 2013 to 2018, was responsible for souring the country’s relations with India. Many of his party leaders had also alleged that India had been behind his conviction in 2019. During his tenure, Yameen brought the archipelago close to China and received several loans from Beijing. 

The current government led by President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih and speaker Mohammed Nasheed are already on shaky ground due to infighting in the party. The MDP, the ruling party, had recently lost Male municipality elections. 

Solih’s government has also been facing the heat of “India-out protests” which are believed to be backed by Yameen’s party. Yameen’s return will further create challenges for the government. 

(SAM) 

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