Maldives court grants bail to ex-leader Gayoom after Yameen's defeat

FILE PHOTO: Former Maldives president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (L) speaks during during a news conference as President-elect Mohamed Nasheed listens (R) in Male November 10, 2008. . REUTERS/Stringer/File photo

By Mohamed Junayd

MALE (Reuters) - The Maldives High Court granted former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom bail on Sunday, making him the latest jailed opponent of President Abdulla Yameen to win freedom since Yameen lost a re-election bid a week ago.

The High Court granted Gayoom bail of 60,000 Maldivian rufiyaa ($3,891) after a secret hearing. Gayoom, who ruled Maldives from 1978-2008, is awaiting trial on charges of trying to bribe officials to topple his the government of Yameen, his own estranged half brother. He was separately sentenced in June to 19 months imprisonment on obstruction of justice charges for refusing to hand over his mobile phone during the investigation.

In the run-up to last week's election, Yameen's government imprisoned a raft of his critics including two former presidents, two Supreme Court judges, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, a number of opposition leaders, lawmakers, and a former chief prosecutor.

Yameen lost his re-election bid to opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih by more than 16 percentage points. Although Yameen is due to remain in office until Nov. 17 before Solih assumes the presidency, a number of Yameen's opponents have already been freed.

On Sunday, the High Court also granted bail to two legislators, Gayoom's son Faris Maumoon and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, who leads a political party.

The country of 400,000 people is popular with tourists but has seen political unrest since its first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, was forced to quit amid a police mutiny in 2012.

($1 = 15.4200 rufiyaa)

(Writing by by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Peter Graff)