BY MOHAMED SHARUHAAN
MALE, Maldives (AP) — A Maldives court on Wednesday sentenced a former strongman accused of plotting to overthrow the government to 19 months in prison for failing to cooperate with the police investigation.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago state from 1978 to 2008, is the second former president to be jailed under President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s rule. He was arrested in February on charges of attempting to overthrow the government of Yameen, his half-brother.
A court sentenced him to one year, seven months and six days in prison for failing to hand over his mobile phone to investigators. The country’s chief justice, Abdulla Saeed, who was arrested with Gayoom, was also given the same sentence for the same offense on Wednesday.
Saeed was previously given a similar jail sentence for allegedly influencing lower court decisions.
Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008, ending Gayoom’s 30-year strongman rule. However, Yameen, who was elected in 2013, has rolled back much of the democratic gains.
Mohamed Nasheed, who was the country’s first freely elected president in 2008, was earlier given a 13-year sentence in a trial widely criticized for due process violations. However, he was granted asylum in Britain when he went there on leave from prison for medical treatment.
Yameen’s former vice president, Ahmed Adeeb, another Supreme Court justice, two former defense ministers, a prosecutor general and opposition lawmakers are among those who have been jailed during Yameen’s tenure. All of the trials have been criticized for alleged lack of fairness.
With all of his potential opponents either in jail or in exile, Yameen is preparing to run for re-election in September virtually unopposed.
A five-member Supreme Court bench in February ordered the release and retrial of Nasheed and other prisoners, calling their sentences politically motivated.
However, Yameen declared a state of emergency and had Saeed, another justice, Ali Hameed, and Gayoom arrested.
Later the three remaining Supreme Court judges overturned their previous decision to release the political prisoners.
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