Authorities granting limited freedom to convicted former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has sparked controversy.

The release of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on medical grounds has prompted widespread scrutiny, particularly after he appeared at the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) offices on Sunday. This development follows a decision by the Maldives Correctional Service to grant a temporary relaxation of the conditions of his house arrest, allowing movement within Male’ City for medical purposes.

Accusations of unequal application of the law are being levelled against authorities, as Yameen had already received an earlier concession on his original 11-year prison sentence for charges of money laundering and bribery.

President-elect Dr Mohamed Muizzu, during his electoral campaign, had pledged to secure Yameen’s release through legal channels, asserting that Yameen’s conviction was driven by political motivations.

Yameen’s current conviction stems from allegations pertaining to the biggest corruption scandal in the nation’s history – – the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMRPC)’s 2014 scandal that saw embezzlement and siphoning of state funds of over MVR 1.3 billion.

Although the Maldives Correctional Service maintains that Yameen’s limited freedom is exclusively for the purpose of seeking medical treatment under escort, conflicting reports emerged on Saturday indicating that the government had authorised him to leave his residence unsupervised for medical reasons.

In spite of these regulations, Yameen proceeded to visit the offices of his political party where he addressed his supporters on a range of issues, including the future direction of the party and the incoming government’s cabinet nominations. This address was broadcast live—though muted—on Channel 13, in compliance with broadcasting regulations that prohibit the provision of airtime to individuals with criminal convictions. 

Notably, the leadership of PPM and its affiliate, the People’s National Congress (PNC), was conspicuously absent from the meeting as they were attending another event. 

Despite substantial evidence presented in court, the PPM-PNC coalition continues to maintain Yameen’s innocence. Other critics also back the political nature of the charges as numerous beneficiaries—totalling over 260—have been identified in various investigations connected to the corruption and embezzlement scandal. 

These individuals range from members of the previous and current parliaments, former members of independent commissions, and senior officials from both previous and incumbent governments, to judges and top officers from security services.

Of the beneficiaries identified, only a small number, including former Tourism Minister and Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and Managing Director of MMPRC Abdulla Ziyath, have been convicted or even charged.

As Yameen faces additional charges in court, an appeal against his 11-year prison sentence is also in progress at the High Court. Meanwhile, public sentiment, particularly on social media platforms, highlights perceived double standards in the treatment of influential individuals, even those with serious criminal convictions.

Note: Following the publication of this story, an official from the Maldives Correctional Service has said that they are closely monitoring the movements of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and will take action if he violates the conditions of his release.