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By Mohamed Junayd

Former Maldives president Yameen to appeal 11-year jail term

FILE PHOTO: Abdulla Yameen, chief of the Progressive Party of Maldives, poses for a photo at his party office in Male, Maldives, March 21, 2022. Picture taken March 21, 2022. REUTERS/Alasdair Pal

Former Maldives president Abdulla Yameen will appeal as soon as possible against his conviction and jailing for 11 years on corruption and money laundering charges, said his lawyer.

Yameen, the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate for the next election due in 2023, was sent to a prison on Maafushi island on Sunday to start his sentence following the order from the Maldives criminal court.

Yameen, 63, has denied any wrongdoing and will serve his time in a special compound in the prison which has been previously used to jail other high profile politicians.

Former Maldives vice president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who is leading Yameen's legal team, said they will appeal against the criminal court's verdict without delay.

"It's quite absurd that the court has issued a verdict of guilty without producing its judgment or case report," Jameel said, adding that the defence was yet to be provided with a full written judgement.

"Our concern is that serious breach of fairness has already taken place due to delay of judgment copy as defence is paralysed from filing appeal which is a fundamental right under Article 56 of our constitution."

The PPM protested against Yameen's conviction on Sunday, with police arresting 16 people before releasing them later, the party said. PPM officials told local media that the party will continue its protests.

"We reiterate our belief that this trial and verdict is a political witch-hunt against our presidential candidate... and call for his immediate and unconditional release," the PPM said in a statement.

Yameen, who lost power in 2018, will remain the party's presidential candidate for the 2023 election, it said.

Situated close to strategic shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, Maldives is a focal point for competition between India and China over influence in the region.

The PPM also alleged that India had "directly interfered" with the judicial process during the trial of Yameen. India's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Michael Perry)

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