Row in Maldives: Leaked tapes of judges, who convicted former president Yameen, show trial was influenced

The leaked audio tapes of three of the five Maldivian judges, who convicted former president Abdullah Yameen in a money laundering case, created a political storm in Maldivian politics as the tapes appear to show that Yameen’s trial was influenced by the current government

Sep 01, 2021
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Former president Abdullah Yameen

The leaked audio tapes of three of the five Maldivian judges, who convicted former president Abdullah Yameen in a money laundering case, created a political storm in Maldivian politics as the tapes appear to show that Yameen’s trial was influenced by the current government. The judges, however, rejected the tapes, terming them fake.

Yameen was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $5 million by a criminal court in 2019 in a case involving money laundering of $1 million from the exchequer. The former president later challenged the conviction, though unsuccessfully, in the High Court. His appeal is currently pending in the apex court.

The leaked audio recordings showed three of the criminal court judges-- Hussain Faiz Rashad, Ali Adam, and Mohamed Sameer-- went viral on Sunday, made comments suggesting the trial was influenced. Faiz Rashad, one of the judges who convicted Yameen, can be heard saying that "the sentence against Yameen was issued by holding the judges" hostage, according to the transcript of the conversation reported by Sun news. 

Soon after the row, the country’s Judicial Service Commission constituted an inquiry commission to probe the matter. Calling the recordings “fake”, all three judges denied the charges. They have also submitted their voice samples to the inquiry committee. The JSC questioned all five judges on Monday. 

Meanwhile, opposition members submitted a request, seeking an inquiry into the case by three parliamentary committees. They had also sought an emergency parliament session to discuss the issue--a demand later rejected by President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih. 

A few months back, Yameen was moved out of prison and kept under house arrest due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation.  

Ties between the current government led by Solih and opposition have never been smooth as the latter accuses the former of political vendetta against its jailed leader. Opposition members, who have long been alleging the trial of Yameen was rigged by the government, disrupted parliament proceedings on Monday, prompting the speaker to suspend the session.  

Moreover, if the allegations are true, it wouldn’t be the first time when the archipelago’s judiciary played a role in settling political scores among its leaders. Yameen, too, had earlier pressured judges during his tenure, forcing them to convict former Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed. 

(SAM)