The son of an exiled opposition leader was released from custody Thursday after prosecutors failed to produce a document that was alleged to be the primary piece of evidence against him.
Criminal Court Judge Ahmed Hailam reprimanded prosecutors before freeing Ibrahim Siyad Gasim, the son of the wealthy and influential Gasim Ibrahim who leads the Jumhooree Party and runs the Villa conglomerate.
Siyad was arrested on bribery charges during a state of emergency declared in response to the Supreme Court’s February 1 order for the release of key politicians and the reinstatement of opposition lawmakers.
He was remanded into police custody until the end of his trial and had been in detention for over five months. He denies the charge.
The missing piece of evidence is a document which, prosecutors said, showed that Villa Group paid US$2.4 million for the purchase of two Malaysian apartments on behalf of two top judges who were also arrested during the state of emergency and were alleged to be part of a plot to overthrow the government.
Siyad was managing director of Villa Group at the time.
Questions over the document first emerged in May, when defence lawyer Hisaan Hussain asked how many pages there were as the document had been filed as secret evidence by prosecutors.
The judge ordered the defence be informed about the number of pages. But prosecutor Aishath Reesha confessed the document had still not been obtained by investigators.
The JP hailed the release of Siyad as a victory for the opposition.
“It is a victory for the people against tyranny,” party secretary general Ahmed Sameer told the Maldives Independent.
“We are seeing that bit by bit the tyranny of President Yameen is unfurling and bit by bit the people will be victorious.
“The sole reason they did this… it is something that this country has never seen before. The torture of children in order to harm a father. Siyad has been very patient despite everything and this is a big victory,” he added.
Opposition politicians congratulated Siyad on Twitter.
“(I) Commend the courage of Siyad Gasim. [His] freedom is a big success,” said the joint opposition’s vice presidential candidate MP Faisal Naseem.
Even though the court released Siyad from police custody, the judge refused to drop the charges and dismiss the case against him.
Siyad is not allowed to travel out of Malé.