Maldives’ former president Abdul Gayoom, other prisoners seek freedom

Election officials preparing ballot papers for counting votes at a polling station in Male on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: ASHWA FAHEEM

A Maldives court released a political prisoner and heard appeals for freedom from several others on Monday, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, just hours after strongman leader Abdulla Yameen conceded an election defeat.

Mr. Yameen, who jailed or exiled most of his rivals during a turbulent five-year term, was unexpectedly beaten by Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who immediately urged the ousted President to free those he had incarcerated.

Opposition lawmaker and former police chief Abdulla Riyaz was released by the Criminal Court in Male on Monday.

He was being held indefinitely following an alleged plot to impeach Mr. Yameen in February that saw dozens detained.

Appeal against jail term

Sources in the Maldives said Mr. Gayoom, the country’s longest-serving leader and estranged half-brother to Mr. Yameen, was among a number of political prisoners brought from prison to the capital in order to lodge appeals against their sentences.

It was not immediately clear when the court would rule on all the petitions, although Opposition sources said they expected the process to continue into the night. The family of Mr. Gayoom, 80, his legislator son Faris Maumoon, and son-in-law Mohamed Nadheem, said the trio had all filed applications for their freedom.

Arrested in February

Mr. Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 straight years before its transition to democracy in 2008, was among those arrested during the February crackdown in the Indian Ocean island nation.

He was sentenced to 19-months in prison for obstructing an investigation into the alleged plot to oust Mr. Yameen who — suspecting a plot to impeach him — declared a ‘State of Emergency’ and arrested top judges and a host of others deemed rivals. The UN called the February purge an “all-out assault on democracy”.

Mr. Gayoom also faces a separate charge of terrorism, along with Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed. That case is still pending.

A deepening political crisis in the Maldives has dented its image as a honeymooners paradise and attracted alarm abroad.

The U.S. and EU had threatened financial sanctions if the presidential poll was not free and fair.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 1:00:42 AM |

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