The High Court on Thursday overturned the bribery and money laundering conviction against former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and ordered a retrial, subsequently freeing him after he had served nearly one year and four months of his 11-year prison sentence.

On 25 December 2022, the Criminal Court found the former leader guilty of bribery and money laundering, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison and imposed a fine of US$5 million. Despite the sentence, he was transferred to house arrest on 1 October 2023.

President Yameen appealed the judgement at the High Court in March 2023. The High Court initiated a review of the Criminal Court’s verdict in June of the same year and concluded hearings on 21 November 2023.

The High Court, however, did not issue a ruling until now. The delay led to allegations by President Yameen that President Mohamed Muizzu had influenced the court to prevent his release. These allegations were echoed by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which also claimed that President Muizzu had exerted undue influence on the judiciary to stall the appeal proceedings.

Upon review, the High Court annulled the conviction on Thursday, citing that the defence had been deprived of certain constitutional rights during the initial trial. Consequently, the High Court directed the Criminal Court to commence a new trial.

Judge Huzaifa Mohamed presided over the appeal at the High Court. In her judgement, she emphasised that a fair trial can only be ensured when the defence is accorded every constitutional right. She noted that the defence had consistently raised concerns about the fairness of the trial.

The other judges on the bench agreed with Judge Mohamed, thus overturning the Criminal Court’s initial conviction. The High Court ruling came 149 days after the conclusion of the appeal hearings. The other judges on the bench were Judge Hassan Shafiu and Judge Mohamed Saleem.

Following his release, President Yameen stated that the 11-year jail sentence had been deprived of numerous rights and alleged that the Mohamed Muizzu administration had unlawfully attempted to delay his appeal. He stated that he had anticipated the annulment of the conviction, as the evidence presented against him had been insufficient.