The Criminal Court on Monday denied the Prosecutor General's Office's request to issue a travel ban order against former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom.
A hearing was held Monday at the Criminal Court, where the state prosecutor requested the court to issue an order to withhold the former president's passport pending the outcome of trial. A money-laundering trial over the lease of Ga. Fuggiri island is currently ongoing in court.
Speaking in court on Monday, the state prosecutor said there is enough evidence that would implicate Yameen, in addition to evidence that points to Yameen preparing to leave the country. As Yameen has previously served as the country's president, it would be challenging to extradite him in the circumstance that he flees the country, he said.
However, the former president's lawyer, Abdulla Shiyaz, denied the claims and said that the forms submitted by the prosecution were shared with the defense at the hearing. He said that the defense wishes to review the evidence that proves Yameen was plotting to leave the country and requested to grant two weeks for the process.
The presiding judge, Ahmed Shakeel, said two weeks is not an appropriate amount of time and that a decision would be made on the matter later the same day. A follow-up hearing was scheduled for 4:00 pm.
During the second hearing, the defense said the state did not submit any documentation of the alleged evidence with their forms. They failed to explain why they believed Yameen was a flight risk, and this evidence must be brought forward, the defense said.
The defense further pointed out that Yameen, at this time, does not hold a valid passport, further stressing that he was not one to leave the country. His passport expired in January this year, and there is no point in seeking a travel order at this time, they said.
Further pointing out that Yameen has zero history of fleeing the courts, his lawyers said he has diligently attended all hearings. While he has made no attempts to leave the country, these points must be considered when deciding on issuing the travel ban order, the lawyer said.
The presiding judge inquired from the state whether they were aware that Yameen's passport had expired in January. He also asked if Yameen could leave the country with an invalid passport.
In response, the state said they were aware that Yameen's passport had expired and that he would not be able to leave the country with said passport. However, he can renew his passport, which would allow him to leave the country. If he applies for a new passport, the state would not be immediately notified of the application, the state said.
The judge said that while the state has submitted evidence that Yameen's passport may be withheld, they failed to present proof of Yameen plotting to leave the country. He further said it is clear from the documentation that Yameen's passport is invalid.
The judge agreed with the state and said it would be challenging to continue with the trial if Yameen left the country. While he has the wealth and capacity to live abroad, it is also true that he attends hearings as per court orders.
However, the judge said a travel ban order could not be issued against an expired passport. If there is any evidence that Yameen has applied for a new passport, the state can request for a travel ban order, he said.
The state has charged Yameen with money laundering and accepting bribes through misuse of power. The prosecution claims President Yameen acquired USD 1,117,000 through the influence of his position. According to the state, Yameen received the funds from the sale of Fuggiri island through Ahmed Krik Riza and laundered the funds through Sun Construction and Engineering and Sun Investment.