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Yameen's appeal reach verdict

Mohamed Rehan
23 November 2023, MVT 08:10
Yameen at the High Court hearing on his appeal case; he is represented by former Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed--
Mohamed Rehan
23 November 2023, MVT 08:10

High Court has concluded all hearings of the appeal submitted on behalf of former President Abdulla Yameen.

The former president was convicted of money laundering and graft in Vaavu atoll Aarah lease case, for which Criminal Court sentenced him to 11 years in jail with a fine of USD 5 million. Besides Yameen, former Felidhoo MP Yoosuf Naeem was convicted in the same case for bribery for which he was sentenced to three years in jail.

Both of the cases were appealed to the first appellate court.

At Tuesday's High Court hearing, November 21, Yameen's legal representative and former Vice President Mohamed Jameel argued that despite the prosecution's claims of Yameen contacting the parties involved in Aarah lease to provide instructions of the transaction, the state had failed to submit sufficient evidence for this.

Jameel further argued that the documents of neither the economic council nor the President's Office show any indications that Yameen had instructed the island to be leased to Yoosuf Naeem.

He further highlighted that the witnesses called in by the prosecution to testify against Yameen included both former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and the former Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) Abdulla Ziyath, adding their testimonies should not be relied on. Jameel also said that the prosecution did not submit any supporting evidence to back their testimonies, and as such Yameen's coercion in the lease could not be sufficiently proven.

Yameen's attorney also noted that the money given by Yoosuf Naeem to him was a business transaction, which can be verified by witnesses and argued that there was no legal grounds to reject their testimonies.

Jameel also said that Yameen's defense had submitted counter-evidence against the prosecution's claims, which cannot be held inadmissible.

Jameel also argued that the burden of proof fell on the prosecution, and attempts to incriminate Yameen outside of procedures should not be allowed.

Yameen's defense further said that criminal charges should not be toyed with, and appealed with the High Court to annul the decision by Criminal Court.

Yoosuf's advocates argued that since the island was leased to him by MMPRC, the prosecution had failed to establish any connection between Yameen and the transaction.

His defense also argued that the offense of bribery would be justified only in the presence of an official entity receiving the bribe, and that the lease of Aarah fell under the legal purview of both the Ministry of Tourism and MMPRC and not Yameen.

In response, prosecution argued Yameen had failed to provide details about the payment he received in US Dollars during investigation while he had claimed the money was a foreign currency exchange transaction only.

Prosecution further argued that Yameen chose to exercise his right to silence, which gave the opportunity to question his defense. Prosecution further pointed out to discrepancies in the testimonies of defense witnesses.

The prosecution argued that though the president cannot be held liable for every action of his ministers, he is liable for any matter where the president's influence is apparent, and added that Yameen had instructed the then Tourism Minister to lease Aarah to Yoosuf Naeem's company, and as such the case includes the involvement of an official entity. The state also said that Yameen received money on the date of the island's lease, and as such the statements provided by both [Yameen and Naeem] to the bank do not match.

Although the defense argued that both Adeeb and Ziyath are motivated to testify against Yameen owing to their personal enmity, there were supporting evidences to back their statements.

Prosecution appealed to the high Court that the money Yameen received in the transaction should be held as graft, and as such to uphold Criminal Court's decision on him and Naeem.

The judges bench declared that the next hearing on the case would be sentencing if there were no further issues to be clarified. Tuesday's hearing stretched to over three hours.

The judges bench of the High Court presiding over the case include Justices Hassan Shafeeu, Huzaifa Mohamed and Mohamed Saleem with Shafeeu chairing the bench.

Meanwhile, the former President is currently under house arrest.

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