Malé, Maldives - In an extensive, over twelve-hour hearing held yesterday, the criminal court continued proceedings against former President Abdulla Yameen, who stands accused of accepting bribes related to the leasing of R. Fuggiri for tourist resort development. The hearing, which commenced at 9:00 am, went on until 10:00 pm, raising numerous human rights and procedural concerns.
The state presented its witnesses: former Vice President Ahmed Adheeb and the ex-Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), both convicts of the MMPRC scandal. These individuals have made deals with the state, accepting house arrest instead of jail time, in exchange for their testimony against Yameen.
In a display of the apparent disregard for defendant rights, Yameen, who suffers from back pain and other health-related issues, was denied both adjournment of the trial to a later date and regular bathroom breaks. Furthermore, despite numerous requests, the court refused to broadcast the trial, drawing criticism for lack of transparency in what is a high-profile case.
This treatment has sparked outcry over potential human rights abuses in the handling of Yameen's case. Critics argue the strenuous, long-lasting hearing without adequate breaks disregards basic standards of humane treatment, raising significant concerns about the integrity and fairness of the legal process.
Opposition factions have asserted that the charges against Yameen are politically motivated, a maneuver to prevent him from running in the upcoming presidential election in the Maldives in September 2023. Yameen is currently serving an 11-year sentence from a similar case, but the ongoing appeal hearings in the high court might result in his release.
Government critics speculate that the current criminal court case serves as an insurance policy, preventing Yameen from participating in the electoral race, even if the high court rules in his favor. Should Yameen be convicted, he will likely not have enough time to appeal the case before the elections.
The complex and controversial nature of this case underscores the tense political climate in the Maldives. As Yameen's trial continues, local and international onlookers will be monitoring closely, raising critical questions about the state of human rights and democracy in the Maldives.