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High Court judge suspended over Rilwan abduction

Hassan Ali was immigration controller when the journalist went missing.



The judicial watchdog on Monday suspended High Court Judge Hassan Ali over an alleged attempt to cover up the abduction and murder of journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August 2014.

Hassan Ali, who was controller of immigration at the time, is suspected of working with two police intelligence officers to forge a travel document in a bid to create fake news about the missing journalist leaving the country and dying overseas.

In a press brief, the Judicial Service Commission – a 10-member oversight body tasked with investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action against judges – said Hassan Ali was suspended after the presidential commission on deaths and disappearances officially informed the watchdog on Monday that he was under investigation.

According to the inquiry commission’s draft report, corporal Mohamed Jinah and corporal Mohamed Riffath met Hassan Ali in late 2014 at the behest of an unnamed top government official and told him that “the story about Rilwan needs to end.”

The police intelligence officers told the immigration controller that they could use a forged passport copy to make an Indian broadcaster falsely report Rilwan’s death while traveling through India. But he refused to hand the intel officers a copy of Rilwan’s passport without a official request in writing and suggested that “an image could be made to look like Rilwan’s real passport, to which the policemen replied that it was a good idea and left.”

The commission cited a statement from Hassan Ali to police investigators in January 2016.

“Hassan Ali said in his statement that about three days later the two men came back and showed him an image made to look like the information page of Rilwan’s passport and that a few days later news spread on social media that Rilwan had been killed while on jihad,” the draft report stated. 

Citing a blog that later turned out to be fake, pro-government news sites such as the tabloid Vaguthu claimed at the time that Rilwan died in Syria.

The two policemen were suspended earlier this month after the commission’s chair Husnu Suood publicly disclosed findings of a 10-month inquiry. The Maldives Independent journalist was abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé and murdered at sea by a local extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the presidential commission concluded.

More than a week after Suood’s press briefing, police raided 17 locations in Malé and Addu City and searched 11 suspects after the commission obtained search warrants from the criminal court. The two-day operation, which included a search at sea, concluded without any arrests.

Travel bans have been imposed on 15 suspects after the commission sought court orders to withhold their passports. 

A suspect arrested in connection with Rilwan’s abduction was also allowed to leave the country in January 2015 when Hassan Ali was immigration controller. After his release by the criminal court in November 2014, Mohamed Suaid flew out with Azlif Rauf, a former soldier charged in connection with the murder of moderate religious scholar Afrasheem Ali.

Their families say the pair died fighting in Syria.