Maldives court overturns ex-president Yameen's jail term

Abdulla Yameen poses for a photo at his party office in Male

By Mohamed Junayd

MALE (Reuters) -A Maldives high court overturned former president Abdulla Yameen's 11-year jail term on Thursday and asked a lower court to restart criminal proceedings against him.

Yameen was convicted in December 2022 of corruption and money laundering over kickbacks from a private company relating to the award of islands for tourism development while he was president.

The high court overturned the prison sentence due to procedural irregularities and ordered the lower court to restart the trial on charges of bribery and money laundering. Yameen is also on trial for separate bribery charges at the court.

In the high court verdict, a three-judge bench ruled that due to the actions of the lower criminal court during the trial, Yameen was unable to exercise his rights. This includes a decision made by the court to accept new evidence that rebutted defence witnesses, after the trial had started.

Last year, Yameen lost the opportunity to stand in the September presidential elections because of his conviction.

His party, which supported President Mohamed Muizzu, backed an "India Out" campaign. Muizzu's government has asked dozens of locally based Indian military personnel to leave in a move critics warn could see the archipelagic nation shift closer to China.

Maldives will hold its parliamentary election on Sunday.

(Reporting by Mohamed Junayd; writing by Sakshi Dayal; editing by Andrew Heavens, Alexandra Hudson)