Former Maldives leader Gayoom freed on bail a week after election

Former Maldives president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been released on bail a week after his estranged half-brother Abdulla Yameen was defeated in a presidential election.

Gayoom, the Indian Ocean island nation’s longest-serving leader, and his legislator son Faris Maumoon were released on Sunday by the High Court in capital Male after they filed fresh appeals against their controversial convictions.

Gayoom, 80, was arrested in February along with the country’s chief justice and another Supreme Court judge for attempting to topple Yameen, who declared a 45-day state of emergency to block his impeachment.

The High Court released Gayoom on a bail of 60,000 rufiyaa ($3,900) and he was also ordered not to travel abroad without its permission.

Gayoom was serving a 19-month jail term for obstruction of justice and was also under trial on a “terrorism” charge.

“Finally, they are all home,” Gayoom’s daughter Yumna Maumoon said on Twitter.

“Hope and pray that all political prisoners will be released soon. The nightmare is finally over Insha Allah. Thank you all who struggled hard for this day.”

Gayoom’s other daughter, former foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, also took to Twitter saying: “So happy you are finally home.”

Another Maldivian dissident, Qasim Ibrahim, was also granted bail. He obtained prison leave for medical treatment and has remained in Europe.

The release followed appeals from president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who urged incumbent Yameen to free all political prisoners in the country after his stunning victory in the September 23 election.

Yameen jailed or exiled most of his rivals during a turbulent five-year term that will come to an end on November 17 when Solih is set to be sworn in. 

Abdulla Yameen concedes defeat in Maldives presidential election

Soon after his defeat, Yameen freed five other political prisoners, but was delaying the release of his half-brother who could have made a claim to the leadership of his Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) party which he did on Friday.

Longest-serving leader

Gayoom had ruled the tourist island nation for 30 straight years till he was defeated in its first multi-party elections in 2008.

Since coming to power in 1978, Gayoom supervised his country’s transition to a major tourist destination, turning the tiny archipelago into one of the richest South Asian countries.

However, his curbs on democracy rallied political opponents, who accused him of ruling the country like a dictator.

In the 2008 elections, he was defeated by Mohamed Nasheed, who was imprisoned multiple times during Gayoom’s long rule.

Nasheed resigned in 2012 following outrage over his decision to detain a sitting judge. Soon after he quit, he was sentenced to 13 years in jail, which he avoided by seeking asylum in the UK.

In 2013, Gayoom helped his half-brother Yameen win a controversial runoff election, but they later fell out and became bitter political enemies. 

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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