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Maldives court to accept Skype testimony in missing journalist trial

Two defendants are not in custody, despite facing terror charges.



The Maldives Criminal Court on Sunday decided to allow witness testimony from the brother of Ahmed Rilwan, as the trial continued into the abduction of the missing Maldives Independent journalist.

Presiding Judge Adam Arif will permit Moosa Rilwan to give evidence by Skype this Thursday in order to prove that no other member of Rilwan’s family has been in a car connected to the kidnapping, local media reported.

Alif Rauf and Mohamed Nooradeen are accused of forcing the journalist into a car at knife-point outside his apartment building in August 2014. The DNA found inside the vehicle, which allegedly belongs to Rauf, matches that of Rilwan’s mother.

The state wants Moosa Rilwan to give evidence to show that it is his brother’s DNA. Rilwan’s mother and sister have already told the court they have not been in the car.

At Sunday’s hearing, which was omitted from the online court schedule, the judge said it was important to have Moosa’s testimony as well in order to remove any doubt.

Arif ordered the state to help Moosa, who no longer lives in the Maldives, to go to a diplomatic mission and testify on Skype in the presence of the embassy’s first secretary. It will be the first time testimony has been given this way.

His will be the final piece of testimony before arguments are summarised. There had been disagreements over whether he should be allowed to give evidence as his name was left off the original witness list.

– ‘Dead or alive’ –

Rauf and Nooradeen are not in custody,  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.

Rilwan’s family has previously accused the state of being involved  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.

The government, however, has denied involvement.

Rilwan’s sister Maryam Shehenaz told the Maldives Independent they had never been informed of hearings and it was unsurprising the Sunday sitting was missing from the schedule.

“We appreciate that the state is trying to include Moosa’s testimony but I am not hopeful that we will find the truth under this government, which has turned a deaf ear to Rilwan’s disappearance. Besides, even if they are sentenced, all we’ll know is that they forced him into a car.

“It has been a long wait and we continue to wait until we find out what happened to him, if he is dead or alive,” she said.