Missing journalist’s family fears inquiry ‘may turn out like MP Afrasheem’s murder probe’

Missing journalist’s family fears inquiry ‘may turn out like MP Afrasheem’s murder probe’
January 19 17:45 2016

Noting that the Maldives police never established a motive or apprehended the masterminds behind the shocking murder of an MP, family members of missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan asked for help from watchdog bodies to ensure a thorough and independent inquiry.

Rilwan has now been missing for 528 days.

His family submitted today letters to watchdog bodies, the National Integrity Commmission and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives requesting their help in pressing the police for an independent inquiry.

President Abdulla Yameen broke his silence on the case last month, ordering the home minister to do everything in his power to find Rilwan. Suspicion has now been cast on former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who was detained on a charge of plotting to kill Yameen in September.

The police have said they are renewing efforts and reviewing the case.

“Our fear is that the investigation may turn out to be incomplete or politicized. When Dr Afrasheem Ali was murdered in 2012, the government said the attack was premeditated and politically motivated. Yet to this day, neither the motive nor the masterminds have been apprehended,” said Fathimath Shehenaz, Rilwan’s sister.

“We believe that the NIC and HRCM have an important function to play in ensuring an inquiry free from political influence.”

Shehenaz noted the state’s systematic failure in the search for Rilwan, pointing out that the Police Integrity Commission, which was reconstituted as the NIC, was asked to investigate police negligence in handling the case in 2014.

A report was promised by June last year, but there has not been any word from the commission yet.

“The NIC’s name and its composition has changed, but the current President Mohamed Farhad was on the PIC bench and he must ensure that the investigation is completed,” she added.

Rilwan, a reporter with this paper, was last seen on August 8, 2014 on a ferry to Hulhumalé. He is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment building in the capital’s suburb.

But in July last year, the police claimed that there was no evidence linking Rilwan’s disappearance with an abduction reported outside his apartment.

The police said they have received DNA analysis of samples taken from three cars suspected to have been used in the abduction, but could not “conclusively state” that there was a connection between the incident and Rilwan’s disappearance.

Four suspects had been arrested in September 2014 and one suspect was held in police custody for five weeks, but the criminal court transferred him to house arrest in November.

One of the suspects was among a group of 12 Maldivian jihadis who traveled to Syria in January. The group also included Azlif Rauf, a suspect in the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012, who reportedly died while fighting in Syria in mid-May.

An investigative report published by Maldivian Democratic Network had identified Azlif’s brother Arlif Rauf as the owner of the red car which may have been used in Rilwan’s suspected abduction.

The report implicated radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance and confirmed evidence of possible “hostile surveillance” at the terminal conducted by two known affiliates of the Malé-based Kuda Henveiru gang led by the Rauf brothers.

The home minister had also also acknowledged involvement of criminal gangs in the case.

Reporters Without Borders has referred Rilwan’s case to the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances.

A petition with 5,500 signatures calling for a speedy investigation was submitted to the parliament last year, but remains stalled at a pro-government-majority committee.