Opposition hopeful despite narrow chances at election for Yameen

Former President and leader of the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. (Sun Photo/Abdulla Abeedh)

Opposition leader, former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom’s chances at 2023’s presidential election has been narrowed down significantly following his conviction of money laundering and bribery in connection to the sale of V. Aarah for resort.

Yameen was charged with money laundering and bribery in connection to the sale of V. Aarah for resort development during his administration.

He was accused of abusing his position and taking a USD 1 million bribe to facilitate the sale of Aarah to Yoosuf Naeem, a former parliamentary representative for Felidhoo constituency, and laundering the said money.

Criminal Court found Yameen guilty on both charges on December 25.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison for the money laundering charge, alongside a fine of USD 5 million

Meanwhile, he was sentenced to four years in prison for taking a bribe. 

Former President and leader of the opposition Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom bring transported to Maafushi Prision. (Sun photo / Abdulla Shaathiu)

His conviction disqualifies him from contesting in the presidential election as per the law. His only chance at election is if he can his innocence at an appellate court.

Opposition has only one worry regarding the issue; whether Yameen’s High Court appeal, which has not been filed yet, would be completed in time. Whether there is time, if a Supreme Court appeal is required.

Election Commission’s (EC) Chairman Fuad Thaufeeq, on Sunday, said that the presidential election will take place on September 9th. The deadline to submit candidacy is August 3rd.

Therewith, Yameen has no choice but to prove his innocence within the next six months. If he fails at the task, he will not be able to contest in the election.

Yameen’s lawyer, former Vice President Dr. Jameel Ahmed Didi remains hopeful about the appeal procedure. He expressed confidence that the High Court appeal would conclude in time – which would also prove Yameen’s innocence.

Former Vice President Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed (C) speaks during a press conference by former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's legal team. (Photo/PPM)

“I believe the lower court was extremely erroneous in its judgment. By the will of God, a High Court appeal can be succeeded. President Yameen’s name will be written on ballot papers,” he said.

Jameel believes there is no question as to whether the appeal stage would conclude in time. He said there was adequate time for all three stages of trial.

“Appeal can be concluded with just one or two hearings. From that point on, I believe Yameen’s name would be there [on ballot papers],” he said.

Underscoring that it was the duty of the prosecution to prove criminal charges brought against an individual beyond reasonable doubt at court – Jameel said that he does not believe Yameen was sentenced to 11 years in prison for charges proven beyond reasonable doubt.

“This is one of the trials which is legally of the poorest quality. Am sure Yameen will be freed through the justice of an appellate court,” he said.

Yameen had been convicted of similar charges back in 2019, in connection to the sale of GA. Vodamulaa for resort development. However, he was acquitted by the Supreme Court last November – just short of two years into his five-year prison term. 

The High Court appeal in Vodamulaa trial took over a year. However, the trial was delayed back then by the obstructions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opposition PPM-PNC coalition’s hope is that Yameen, who secured over 96,000 votes in the last presidential election, compete in this year’s election as well.