A court in Maldives has ordered the release of former president Abdulla Yameen, saying there was not enough reason to hold him beyond a month under the law, Reuters has reported.
After losing a presidential election last September and resigning in November, he was arrested in February to face charges of money-laundering stemming from the lease of islands for tourism development during his tenure.
The release comes before parliamentary elections scheduled to be held on April 6. Yameen cultivated close ties with China during his presidency, which lasted from 2013 to 2018.
His domestic critics and opponents accused him of abuse of power and graft, while his pro-China policies caused anguish in India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a point of attending the inauguration of the new, pro-India president Ibrahim Mohammed Solih in November, which was followed by the latter’s state visit to India in December.
In March, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj paid a two-day visit to Maldives during which a number of development projects were discussed.
But India and Maldives have clarified that the US$1.4 billion that New Delhi has pledged in aid will not go toward reimbursing any part of the massive debt to China that was incurred during Yameen’s presidency.
While corruption charges are issues that have been raised by all parties during the election campaign, outsiders are likely to focus their interest on the Sino-Indian contest for influence in the archipelago.
A total of 87 seats are up for grabs in the election this weekend, and Yameen’s old party the Progressive Party of Maldives, which he has since left, won the last parliamentary election in 2014, while Solih belongs to the pro-Indian Maldivian Democratic Party.