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Government ‘influencing’ votes by freeing inmates and waiving fines

It will now be easier for drug convicts to be pardoned.



The Maldives government is trying to influence votes ahead of September’s presidential election by waiving traffic fines and promising to free criminals, the opposition alleged Thursday after rules were changed to relax pardons for drug convicts.

Rules under the Clemency Act were changed Wednesday and published in the government gazette, so presidential pardons can be granted to prisoners who have not served half of their prison terms for drug offences.

The rules used to state that people convicted of major crimes, including drug cases, and serving more than 10 years in prison must have completed half of their jail term to stand eligible for clemency or leniency.

But the changes remove drug cases from the clause, allowing President Abdulla Yameen to grant pardons to drug convicts sentenced to more than ten years to be freed even if they have not completed half the sentence.

The Maldives United Opposition spokesman, Ahmed Mahloof, told the Maldives Independent that the government actions were intended to influence votes ahead of the election.

“There will be no problems if these people are freed after they have been reformed, but this is being done solely for the purpose of getting more votes. This will not benefit the convicts or society,” he said.

Mahloof also criticised the government for its “unlawful activities by using state property and funds” for Yameen’s re-election campaign.

“Everything at the PSM [state broadcaster] is being used for their campaign events and this is completely against the constitution and the laws,” he added, calling on independent bodies to investigate these activities.

His comments came as the transport authority announced Yameen’s decision to waive traffic fines worth more than MVR7.8 million (MVR,506,255).

Deputy Economic Minister Abdulla Shiyaz told reporters the fines for parking tickets issued in 2015 and 2016 were waived after considering the parking difficulties caused in the capital because of road reconstruction.