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Maldives president declares abducted journalist ‘dead’

The president denied thwarting the investigation into the missing journalist, “who is now dead.”



President Abdulla Yameen has declared Ahmed Rilwan dead, after nearly four years of authorities refusing to say what happened to the abducted Maldives Independent journalist.

Speaking on the island of Madaveli Tuesday afternoon, Yameen dismissed as a “blatant lie” allegations by his jailed former deputy that the president had “overruled” his efforts within the cabinet to find the missing journalist.

“I’ve seen in a newspaper today what my former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb said. Minivan News [renamed Maldives Independent] journalist Rilwan, who is now dead, no doubt, a very regrettable matter, [Adeeb said] ‘President Yameen stopped the investigation into the death when we were looking into it at the cabinet level,'” Yameen said.

In a tweet following immediate media coverage of the remarks, Yameen’s spokesman said the president “did not confirm Rilwan’s death” but was responding to Adeeb’s allegations.

“By ‘no doubt’ he meant that we all are all saddened by what happened to Rilwan,” Ibrahim Muaz Ali tweeted.

The president’s remarks came after Adeeb issued a statement through his lawyer Tuesday morning, denying any involvement in allowing a suspect arrested over the abduction to leave the country.

Yameen slammed the media for carrying statements from a “big convict” who was found guilty of orchestrating a bomb plot to assassinate the president.

A 2016 corruption exposé by Al Jazeera featured a message allegedly sent by Yameen to Home Minister Umar Naseer, asking him not to be “overwhelmed” by Rilwan’s case.

Naseer denied receiving such a text message.

According to the documentary’s producer, the exchange occurred in a cabinet Viber group.

The president previously refused to comment on Rilwan’s disappearance or to meet the family.

Last week, two suspects charged in connection with the abduction was acquitted by the criminal court, which blamed glaring investigative and prosecutorial failures.

The suspects, Alif Rauf and Mohamed Nooradeen, were accused of forcing Rilwan into a car at knife-point outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé on August 8, 2014.

“They are being charged with abduction as his death remains unconfirmed. The police sent the case because there is enough evidence to charge with abduction,” Ahmed Thaufeeq, a spokesman from the Prosecutor General’s Office, told the Maldives Independent in September last year.

Rilwan’s family said Tuesday the not guilty verdict showed “at minimum state complicity and, at worst, active involvement in Rilwan’s abduction and disappearance.”

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 indeed forced into a car at knife-point.