Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim departed for Singapore late Wednesday night after the Maldives Correctional Service authorised a 10-day medical leave for the convicted opposition lawmaker.
The 67-year-old business tycoon was allowed to leave with a travel document nearly two weeks after he was found guilty of attempted bribery and sentenced to more than three years in prison.
The midnight verdict was delivered in absentia while Gasim was hospitalised after collapsing inside the courthouse. Citing doctor’s advice, Judge Adam Arif also ordered the authorities to arrange for Gasim to be urgently flown overseas for tests unavailable in the Maldives.
After visiting him at the hospital as an envoy of the president last week, Home Minister Azleen Ahmed assured that medical leave would be arranged within days, but the Attorney General’s office went on to appeal the part of Gasim’s verdict that ordered the authorities to arrange for treatment overseas.
The high court has yet to begin hearings on the state’s appeal. The MCS meanwhile decided to transfer Gasim to house arrest but he remained hospitalised as doctors say his heart condition is too serious.
In a statement last Friday, Gasim’s lawyers called the failure of the prisons authority to enforce the court order “shameful” and reiterated doctor’s advice for him to urgently undergo tests unavailable in the Maldives as further delays “may result in life-threatening arrhythmia.”
The two-time presidential candidate was prosecuted for offering to grant tickets from the allied opposition parties and help with the re-election campaigns of MPs who vote to impeach the speaker of parliament. The purported bribery offer was made in a speech ahead of the opposition’s failed bid to remove the speaker on March 27.
The MP for Maamigili will also lose his seat unless the conviction is overturned on appeal.
Aside from Gasim, 13 other opposition lawmakers have also been put on trial after the opposition secured the backing of a majority of MPs to begin impeachment proceedings again in early July.
The four-party opposition coalition condemned Gasim’s jailing as “part of a relentless campaign of persecution” after the opposition secured a majority of parliament with defections from the ruling party last month.
The midnight verdict “erases any pretence of judicial impartiality,” observed US ambassador Atul Keshap.
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