The Criminal Court has said the Aarah bribery case involving former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom could be tried under civil standards.
The State raised money laundering and bribery against the former President, as he is suspected of having deposited funds from the sale of V. Aarah to his personal account and laundering the funds. Former Felidhoo MP Yoosuf Naeem is also being tried alongside Yameen on bribery charges. The trial began at the Criminal Court on January 2.
A hearing was held at the Criminal Court on Monday to decide if the case could be tried as a civil matter.
In Monday's hearing, President Yameen's lead counsel, Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, said the charges were raised against Yameen by the State in an attempt to frame him. He said there is no evidence that can prove the facts on which the State's charges are based.
Jameel further said while the State has named former Vice President of the Maldives Ahmed Adeeb and former Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) Abdulla Ziyath as witnesses to the case, the Supreme Court has previously deemed their witness statements as inadmissible due to their criminal history. Other than the statements of the two individuals, the State does not have additional evidence to prove the charges, he added. He went on to state that the funds referred to by the State are not in existence and that the charges were fabricated.
Speaking on behalf of Yoosuf Naeem, his attorney Hamza Latheef said financial transactions did indeed occur between his client and President Yameen. However, the transactions were all legal, he said. The State was seeking bribery charges based on the word of two witnesses, he added.
'Without Adeeb and Ziyath's witness statements, a case where one needs to be answerable will cease to exist,' he said.
Responding to the defense, the State said the Prosecutor General fulfilling his responsibilities cannot be called 'framing' and said they had submitted many direct and indirect evidence to support their charges.
After considering the arguments by both sides, presiding Judge Ahmed Shakeel said the case could be tried as a civil matter.
The next stage would be the submission of pretrial motions. The next hearing will be held on May 25.