The jailed former President, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, has voiced bitterness over the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Elections Commission (EC)’s decision to bar him from contesting in the recent presidential election due to his current criminal conviction.

Recently transferred to house arrest from jail, where he had been serving an 11-year sentence for corruption and money laundering, Yameen addressed supporters from a window, saying the ruling has set a dangerous precedent.

The electoral body rejected Yameen’s candidacy, citing Article 109(f) of the Constitution as the basis for its decision. This constitutional provision states that a presidential candidate should not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since their release or pardon for the offence in question.

Yameen’s legal defence in the case centred around the argument that the criminal conviction or judgment referred to in Article 109 must be a final decision.

During the Supreme Court ruling, Justice Husnu Al Suood said, “Yameen does not meet the criteria outlined in Article 109 of the Constitution; therefore, he is ineligible to contest the presidential election. Despite the ongoing appeal process, the 11-year prison sentence and fine will stand, requiring him to continue serving those sentences until a higher court overturns the lower court’s verdict.” The remaining six justices on the bench supported his opinion.

According to Yameen, the ruling paves the way for incumbent governments to stifle opposition by levying charges in a lower court and delaying the appeal process.

“The Supreme Court has set a very dangerous precedent in the Maldives. An incumbent merely needs to levy a charge against their competition in a lower court and obtain a criminal conviction. Regardless of whether one is guilty or innocent, the path to contesting ends there. A lower court’s verdict, with limitations on appeal, is the only thing you need now,” he said.

Critics were quick to point out the irony in his statements. Under his rule, all opposition leaders, including parliamentarians who rebelled against him and Supreme Court justices who ruled against him, were suppressed through arrests and treason charges.

Yameen alleged that the government colluded with the courts to delay his appeal process, so that the Supreme Court would rule against his candidacy.

He assured his supporters that once his appeal is complete, he will be found innocent, nullifying all the unjust collusion by the current administration.