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Maldives ex-strongman sentenced to 19 months in jail

Last Updated Jun 13, 2018 at 7:00 am PDT

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2011 file photo, Maldives' former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom addresses a press conference to announce the formation of a new political party in Male, Maldives. A Maldives court on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, sentenced the former strongman accused of plotting to overthrow the government to 19 months in prison for failing to corporate with the police investigation. Gayoom, who ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago state from 1978 to 2008, is the second former president to be jailed under President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's rule. (AP Photo/Sinan Hussain, File)

MALE, Maldives – A Maldives court on Wednesday sentenced a former strongman accused of plotting to overthrow the government to 19 months in prison for failing to co-operate with the police investigation.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago state from 1978 to 2008, is the second former president to be jailed under President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s rule. He was arrested in February on charges of attempting to overthrow the government of Yameen, his half-brother.

A court sentenced him to one year, seven months and six days in prison for failing to hand over his mobile phone to investigators. Two Supreme Court judges, Abdulla Saeed and Ali Hameed, who were arrested with Gayoom, were also given the same sentences for the same offence on Wednesday.

Saeed and Hameed previously had been given similar jail sentences for allegedly influencing lower court decisions.

Maldives, known for its expensive tourist resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008, ending Gayoom’s 30-year strongman rule. However, Yameen, who was elected in 2013, has rolled back much of the democratic gains.

Mohamed Nasheed, who was the country’s first freely elected president in 2008, was earlier given a 13-year sentence in a trial widely criticized for due process violations. However, he was granted asylum in Britain when he went there on leave from prison for medical treatment.

Yameen’s former vice-president, Ahmed Adeeb, two former defence ministers, a prosecutor general and opposition lawmakers are among those who have been jailed during Yameen’s tenure. All of the trials have been criticized for alleged lack of fairness.

With all of his potential opponents either in jail or in exile, Yameen is preparing to run for re-election in September virtually unopposed.

A five-member Supreme Court bench in February ordered the release and retrial of Nasheed and other prisoners, calling their sentences politically motivated.

However, Yameen declared a state of emergency and had Saeed, Hameed, and Gayoom arrested.

Later the three remaining Supreme Court judges overturned their previous decision to release the political prisoners.