President releases Yameen

People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdulla Yameen was released Friday afternoon from his controversial detention on the presidential retreat island of Aarah, more than a week after he was taken into ‘protective custody’.

Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) spokesman Major Abdul Raheem confirmed that Yameen – former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s half-brother – had been released from custody under orders from President Nasheed.

“He was released at his house and we are no longer providing him with security,” Raheem said, adding that Yameen was never “under arrest”.

The leader of the minor opposition party, who was last week released from house arrest by the Supreme Court, had been accused by the government of corruption, bribery and treason alongside Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim, a high-profile businessman thought to be one of the wealthiest men in the Maldives.

Deputy Speaker of the Majlis and PA Deputy leader Ahmed Nazim is also facing allegations of corruption concerning the judiciary, along with ruling party MP Mohamed Musthafa. Both were released by the criminal court last week due to the court ruling that current evidence was insufficient to warrant their detention.

The week prior to Yameen’s detention, recordings of phone conversations between the MPs implicating them in apparent corruption and vote-buying were leaked to the media, prompting both a rise in public anger against MPs and debate over the ethics of tapping personal phone calls.

After taking him into custody following violence outside his house last week, MNDF refused to present Yameen in court despite an order from the Criminal Court on July 15. Parliament’s speaker Abdulla Shahid on Wednesday suspended parliament indefinitely until the release of the MP.

Meanwhile, a coalition of opposition-aligned parties including the Jumhoree Party (JP), People’s Alliance (PA) Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) appealed to the international community to put pressure on the government to release Yameen.

The government contended that even though Yameen was being held on Aarah against his will, his detention was constitutional because of public anger towards Yameen and the risk to his safety.

Assistant Secretary to the United States Robert Blake, who visited briefly last week, suggested the President “either charge or release Mr Yameen.”

Speaking to Minivan News this morning, Yameen confirmed he had been “fully released”.

“I think [President Nasheed] finally realised concept of protective custody was ridiculous,” Yameen said, adding that he felt safe walking the streets.

“I have personal security in my house, but I can’t afford more than that,” he said, adding that he expected the police and MNDF to protect his home from further mob violence.

“[Otherwise] I’m perfectly capable of defending myself,” he said, explaining that he had “followers” who would protect him at the price of continued street violence.

Yameen said he was unsure why the government had sought to gain by detaining him, as the opposition parties were “already engaged in dialogue with the government two days before my arrest.”

“Perhaps the President thought it was the only way I would cave into his demands. Otherwise his actions are incomprehensible – he certainly hasn’t gained anything from this,” Yameen suggested. “International reception has been bad and locally very hostile.”

Yameen further added that the President’s comparison of him during a press conference last week to former President Amin Didi, who was assassinated by a mob in Male’, was “grotesque”, and that Male’ was not suffering from such a degree of public disorder.

Of his custody, Yameen described the physical conditions as “OK”, however “nobody except my wife, children and my lawyer had access to me.”

Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, Leader of the major opposition party, the DRP, said last week that Yameen’s custody was the “essence” of the present deadlock as the government had “not followed due process”.

A rare press conference to be held at the President’s Residence Muleaage this morning at 10:45am was cancelled at the last minute.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair was not responding to calls at time of press.