'Not being given the opportunity to be released on bail an injustice'

Deputy leader of opposing Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Ahmed Shiyam has stated that it is an injustice that the jailed opposition leader Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom is not entitled to bail until the High Court decides on the appeal filed by President Yameen challenging the Criminal Court's money laundering verdict against him.

The legal team of former president had recently expressed concern over the High Court's delay in making a decision on releasing the opposition leader on bail.

Lead counsel of President Yameen's legal team, former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed on Friday took to popular social network Twitter to relay a message by President Yameen.

In his tweet, Jameel said the former president is eligible for bail, similar to other people. While 1.5 months have passed since President Yameen requested to be released on bail, the delay in making a decision on the issue is concerning, wrote Jameel.

"A message from President Yameen: It is only fair that President Yameen is granted the opportunity to be released on bail, just like anybody else. While 1.5 months have passed, how is it fair that the court still hasn't reached a decision regarding bail? Ensure fundamental rights, true judicial reform is the assurance of human rights without delay," read the tweet.

Following the tweet, the issue has been heavily debated on various platforms. Some legal experts say a convict can be released on bail during the appeal process only if a lower court finds him not guilty, and if the lower court verdict is appealed by the Prosecutor General, and the High Court orders to keep the person on custody until the end of the trial.

Responding to this, Naifaru MP Shiyam said it is an injustice that President Yameen is not given the opportunity to be released on bail while a High Court decision on the appeal is being awaited. He called on relevant bodies to grant the opportunity to the opposition leader.

Supporters of president Yameen claim many political detainees have been released on bail in the past. Former Maldives strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, his son Faris Maumoon, and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim were released on bail on September 30, 2018, they said.

The three individuals were released on bail after the High Court set hefty amounts as bail. While MVR 70,000 was paid as bail to release Gasim Ibrahim, MVR 60,000 and MVR 40,000 were paid as bail for the release of Gayyoom and his son respectively.

At the time, members of PPM had voiced concern after the three politicians were released on bail.

Speaking at a press conference held by PPM on the night of their release, then PG leader of PPM Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik had stated that the rich and the powerful were being released on bail while the family members of average families were still in jail.

Former President Yameen was accused of defying the agreement between himself and the Anti-Corruption Commission, which stipulated the former president to move funds in his Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) account that are suspected of having been laundered, into an escrow account set up between the two parties.

Failing to do so, and moving the funds in question into an investment account, the former president deposited funds from another source into the escrow account. Criminal Court on November 28, 2019 found Yameen guilty of money laundering and sentenced him to five years imprisonment, ordering him to pay the state an amount of US$ 5 million within six months.

While the Criminal Court verdict has been appealed at the High Court, the former president's legal team has requested the High Court to release President Yameen on bail until the court reaches a decision on the appeal. No decisions have been made by the High Court thus far.

According to Yameen's supporters, the verdict delivered against their leader is injust. The opposing PPM-PNC coalition is currently gathering signatures for a petition calling for President Yameen's release. The petition will be sent to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, relevant government authorities and foreign organizations, said the coalition.