Lawyers: Criminal Court’s actions denied Yameen his rights

The Criminal Court’s actions during the Aarah trial denied former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and co-appellant Yoosuf Naeem multiple fundamental rights, argue Yameen’s lawyers.

Yameen was sentenced to 11 years in prison and slapped with a USD 5 million fine on December 25, 2022, after he was found guilty of money laundering and bribery charges in connection to the sale of V. Aarah for resort development.

Meanwhile, Yoosuf Naeem was sentenced to three years in prison for bribery.

The convictions are being appealed at the High Court.

At Thursday’s hearing, held after two previous hearings were cancelled at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO), Yameen’s lawyers expressed concern over the trial.

The head of Yameen’s legal team, former vice president Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said that Criminal Court’s actions had violated multiple rights of the appellants – including lost opportunities due to how the pretrial hearings were conducted and challenges in building a defense due to failure of the prosecution to share evidence.

Jameel said that the appellants also lost rights due to how the standard for innocence was interpreted and because the case had to go to appeal.

Another one of Yameen’s lawyers, Abdulla Shiyaz said that the prosecution had introduced new evidence halfway through the trial, and that if the defense had received access to the investigation file then, it would have been established that the evidence had been ones the prosecution had been unable to introduce earlier, because it tried but failed to find it.

“The opportunity to seek and submit documents for the defense was denied,” he said.

Former MP Yoosuf Naeem’s lawyer, Hamza Latheef expressed concern over how the pretrial hearing and the sentencing was conducted.

“Because the judge hogged the time, both the prosecution and the defense lost the opportunity to present arguments and motions based on evidence and considered arguments ahead of sentencing,” he said.

He added that the judge’s interpretation of the time frame for pre-trial motions had led to rejection of motions submitted by both appellants.

The three-hour hearing was adjourned after announcing plans to hold another hearing.