High Court rules against bail, suspension of sentence of Pres. Yameen

Former President Yameen is seen waving after boarding a speedboat of Corrections Services to be taken back to prison after a court hearing in his appeal case on January 28, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

The High Court of Maldives has ruled against the former President Abdulla Yameen in suspending his sentence and releasing him on bail.

The former President was convicted of money laundering in December 2019 and the defense appealed the case to the High Court soon afterward.

The defense requested the High Court to have the former President’s sentence suspended and to release him on bail, citing health issues.

However, the High Court today ruled against both requests. The decision against suspending the sentence was ruled for by two of the three judges on the High Court bench while the request to have the former President released on bail was ruled against by all three judges unanimously.

The former president's defense attorneys had stated that bail was available in the legal system of Maldives and was also right guaranteed under the ICCPR.

The defense stated that previous High Court rulings had shown that bail was available in such cases. The defense had taken the famous cases of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his son Faris Maumoon and leader of JP and Maamigili MP Qasim Ibrahim who had all been released on bail after being convicted.

The High Court’s actions in these cases had created a precedent despite the lack of legal basis, according to Dr. Jameel who also stated that the practice was allowed in other countries. The defense also took examples from cases in Indian courts including the Supreme Court of India.

Dr. Jameel and the defense team also noted that since the former President was an opposition leader, it was hard for him to hold the government responsible and accountable while imprisoned and that his release was one of “public interest”.

However, the judge's bench presiding over the case had ruled today to not allow the release of the former President on bail and also against suspending his sentence. The judge's bench is formed by Judge Mohamed Niyaz, Hussain Shaheed and Hussain Mazeed.

Judge Mazeed stated that the ruling came after considering all the arguments made by both sides in the case, documents submitted, relevant laws, and previous court rulings relatable to the case in other countries.

The judge also stated that the concept of "Post Conviction Bail" was not a fundamental right but merely a conditional right. The accused can only be released if accused of a crime and not convicted of one. Responding to the defense's argument regarding post-conviction bails in other countries, the defense noted that those countries had relevant laws related to the doctrine while the Maldives did not have one and judges in the country were not granted the powers to create such laws.

A man imprisoned from the law can only be released from another law, according to the judge who also stated that bail was not granted or enforced through law.

Judge Mohamed Niyaz however, stated that bail can be granted under High Court regulations. But he noted that he did not see a legal reason why bail should be granted from the arguments presented by the defense in the case. 

The Judge also noted that the defense did not question or present the wrongdoing of the lower court but merely questioned the credibility of the witnesses in the trial.

Regarding the previous precedents of release on bail, the court considered the bail of a child abuse case where the defendant was released on bail. Judge Niyaz noted that money laundering conviction of President Yameen was classified as a serious offense.

The cases submitted for comparison were not relevant and did not take into account the seriousness of the crimes., according to the court.

The peace of the society must also be taken into account when releasing the former President who as the head of the state was to spearhead the efforts against crimes such as money laundering, according to the court.

Niyaz also agreed with Judge Mazeed that bail was not a fundamental right and neither was pre-trial bail. 

He also noted that bail pending appeal was not a constitutional right but was a discretionary power of the High Court regulations.

Judge Niyaz then noted that the former President was not an innocent party and there was no way in law to view him as innocent since he had been convicted of a crime.