High Court schedules Yameen’s appeal in Aarah case for Thursday

Opposition leader, former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom and his lawyers captured at a High Court hearing on March 28, 2023.

High Court has scheduled a hearing in the appeal filed by opposition leader, former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom over the Criminal Court verdict sentencing him to 11 years in prison for money laundering and bribery charges.

Yameen’s head of legal team, Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who spoke to the press after the legal team and the leadership of the opposition PPM-PNC coalition visited High Court on Tuesday, revealed being informed by the High Court of their intention to schedule a hearing in the case for Thursday.

“I do not believe there will be a lot of hearings hereon after. Can conclude all hearings in the case at High Court within one or two hearings, hopefully. Afterward, I believe the verdict will be next,” he said.

Jameel also noted that a request has been filed for Yameen to be changed to home confinement for the period of the appeal.

Criminal Court sentenced Yameen to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2022, after finding him guilty of money laundering and bribery charges in connection to the sale of V. Aarah for resort development. He also received a fine of USD 5 million.

Yameen appealed the case to High Court on February 12th initially, and resubmitted the appeal after making amendments instructed by the High Court on March 15th.

The appeal is being heard by a bench of three judges – which includes Judge Huzaifa Mohamed, who heads the bench, in addition to Judge Hassan Shafeeu, and Judge Mohamed Saleem.

The hearings in the case have been stalled since the last hearing held early in July, after one of the judges went on leave.

Opposition PPM-PNC coalition has expressed concern over the delays.

Yameen, who was PPM’s presidential candidate, submitted his candidacy for the September 9 presidential election last week.

The Elections Commission (EC) rejected Yameen’s candidacy due to his conviction, citing Article 109 (f) of the Constitution, which disqualifies candidates who have been sentenced to over 12 months in prison for a crime, unless it has been at least three years since they have completed their sentence or have been pardoned.

EC rejected Yameen’s candidacy based on two main factors; his criminal conviction, and his failure to settle the fine he was ordered to pay as part of his sentence.

He contested the decision with the Supreme Court, which ruled on Sunday that the EC was right to declare the opposition leader ineligible to contest the election. The Supreme Court, in their verdict, also said Yameen had a proven debt.

Jameel has described the Supreme Court’s judgment as a result of infringing Yameen’s rights.

Following his unsuccessful attempt to have EC’s decision to reject his candidacy revoked, Yameen sent a note, instructing the PPM-PNC leadership to consider boycotting the election, which the senate decided against with a vote of 67-45.

Yameen communicated through his spouse, Fathimath Ibrahim, that he did not accept the senate’s decision.

However, at the last minute, Yameen decided to back Male Mayor Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s candidacy as PNC’s candidate. The coalition partner of PPM, PNC produced the candidate for the election at the instruction of Yameen, as a ‘backup’, in case he fails his Supreme Court bid.