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Brother of abducted journalist makes Maldives legal history

Moosa Rilwan said he had never been in a red car alleged to be connected with his brother’s abduction.

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The brother of an abducted journalist on Thursday became the first witness to testify overseas through Skype in the Maldives.

Moosa Rilwan, the brother of Ahmed Rilwan, told the court he had never been in a car that was allegedly used in the abduction almost four years ago.

Two suspects – Aalif Rauf and Mohamed Nooradeen – charged in connection with the abduction appeared without lawyers, but wanted to proceed with the hearing.

Prosecutors allege the red car belongs to Rauf and that it was driven by Nooradeen at the time of Rilwan’s abduction in August 2014. They have denied the terrorism charge.

At the hearing Judge Adam Arif announced that testimony would be taken through the official Skype addresses of the Criminal Court and the Maldives embassy in Malaysia.

“We have assured that Moosa Rilwan is in the presence of an official who is more senior than the first secretary at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur,” he told the court as the witness appeared on two screens inside the courtroom.

Moosa took an oath before swearing he had never been in the red car with the licence plate number P4954.

“I have never even seen that car,” he said when senior public prosecutor Aishath Mohamed showed him a picture of it.

Police earlier said a DNA sample found from the car matches with the DNA of Rilwan’s mother Aishath Easa. The prosecution is trying to prove that no other family member has been in the car.

His mother, four sisters and three brothers have previously said that they have not been in the car. Their testimony revealed that Rilwan has a fourth brother who lives in Malaysia.

Moosa Rilwan said he had never been to his younger brother’s apartment in Hulhumalé when he disappeared. He also said he moved to Malaysia in 2016 and was aware that police were looking for him for investigation purposes.

“But I have not been contacted by the police for a statement,” he told the judge.

The two defendants did not have any questions and wanted to discuss documentary evidence at the hearing to present concluding arguments.

They also said they did not want to summon any more defence witnesses. Two defence witnesses, presented by Nooradeen, testified previously.

The judge gave one week to prepare the concluding arguments.

Rilwan’s family earlier criticised the state for casting doubt over the DNA evidence. They also accused the state of involvement in his disappearance, alleging police negligence in investigating the case.

They claim police failed to initiate a search when Rilwan’s neighbours reported a man being forced into a car at knifepoint outside his apartment building, and that police allowed suspects arrested over the abduction to leave the country following their release.

Rauf and Nooradeen remain free despite facing terrorism charges.

A third suspect charged over the abduction left for Syria after his release from custody in September 2014, according to police. His family claim he is dead.

The government has previously denied any involvement in the case.

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