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Expert explains DNA evidence in Rilwan abduction trial

DNA lifted from hairs found in the trunk of a car owned by one of the defendants matched Rilwan’s mother.



A police forensic expert explained Monday key DNA evidence in the abduction of journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August 2014.

Mitochondrial DNA from hairs found inside a car owned by one of the defendants matched Rilwan’s mother, Madheeh Mohamed Saleem told the court, explaining that mDNA is inherited solely from the mother.

The defendants, Alif Rauf and Mohamed Nooradeen, are accused of forcing Rilwan into a car at knifepoint outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé.

Terrorism charges were raised against the pair in August last year. Unlike other terror suspects, they remain free during the trial.

According to media reports, their defence lawyer questioned whether the mDNA could have come from someone other than Rilwan.

The expert said it could match daughters of Rilwan’s sisters.

The DNA testing was conducted in laboratories in Thailand and Vietnam, Madheeh said, noting that DNA found in Rilwan’s apartment also matched his mothers.

The defence lawyer meanwhile objected to the prosecution’s failure to submit a chain of custody report, which shows the transfer of evidence by the police through various investigative stages.

In response, the state prosecutor said the report is submitted only if the authenticity of the evidence is questioned and assured the court that it will be shared with the defence.

Judge Adam Arif concluded proceedings after giving the prosecution five days to arrange the testimony of its last secret witness. The chief judge said he wants to begin hearing testimony from defence witnesses to finish the trial before the end of the month.

Alif and Nooradeen were arrested two years ago but were freed after two months in custody.

After nearly two years of denying any link between Rilwan’s disappearance and an abduction reported outside his building, police said in April 2016 that he was forced into a car at knife-point as long feared by family and friends.

In February, the court heard from neighbours who saw a man being forced into a red car that sped off with its back door open. One of the witnesses said he called the police after he found a knife left on the ground.

A policeman who was on duty at the Hulhumalé station told the court that the knife was taken by forensic officers as police searched for a red car.

Police found parked red cars and noted registry numbers but did not search any further, he said.

In early April, the prosecution called witnesses to establish that Nooradeen drove the car in Hulhumalé.

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

Other evidence in the case includes footage of Suaid tailing Rilwan before he was last seen entering the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in the capital.

Alif and Nooradeen were charged under the 1990 anti-terrorism law with “the act or the intention of kidnapping or abduction of a person or of taking a hostage.” The charges were raised with reference to article 6(b) of the law, which prescribes a penalty of 10 to 15 years imprisonment or banishment for persons found guilty of terrorism “without the loss of life”.

Photo of Alif and Nooradeen by