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Maldives court jails Gayoom, Chief Justice for 19 months

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MALE, AFP: A court in the Maldives yesterday sentenced former strongman leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to 19 months in prison for obstructing an investigation into an alleged plot to oust the current President. 

The Criminal Court ruled that Gayoom, 80, interfered with the probe into the attempt to topple President Abdulla Yameen, his half-brother, by refusing to divulge his phone details. 

Gayoom was arrested along with Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed in February for their alleged role in clearing the way for an impeachment of Yameen. 

The three men are facing a separate charge of terrorism and that case is still pending. 

They were arrested soon after Yameen declared a state of emergency which removed the Parliament’s power to impeach him. 

All dissidents in the Maldives, an upscale holiday paradise for foreigners where poverty is rife, have either been locked up or have fled the country amid a crackdown on opposition activists. 

Yameen, 59, resorted to emergency laws to prevent being impeached by Parliament after he lost his majority in the legislature. 

His move also curtailed the powers of the Judiciary and Parliament after the Supreme Court made a ruling which would have allowed former President Mohamed Nasheed - who lives in exile in London - to return and challenge Yameen for the presidency in the September elections. 

Yameen refused to follow the Court order and instead arrested the two top judges as well as Gayoom. 

The political crisis has dented the image of the nation, comprising 1,192 tiny coral islands, as a popular tourist destination and has prompted alarm abroad, including at the United Nations. 

Rights group Amnesty International yesterday criticised Gayoom’s sentencing as “politically motivated” and the “product of trials that do not meet international standards”.

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