President Abdulla Yameen pushed to find a missing journalist and stayed up all night while search operations were happening, an ex-police chief told local media.
Yameen declared Ahmed Rilwan dead Tuesday in an off-hand remark, after nearly four years of authorities refusing to say what had happened to the abducted Maldives Independent journalist.
He later apologised – after his remarks caused outrage – and said he hoped Rilwan was still alive.
Former police commissioner Hussain Waheed told SunOnline the president stayed awake until dawn while police searched for Rilwan.
“I remember very well there were nights when Yameen stayed up while we conducted operations on locations where Rilwan was said to have been at.
“Some nights, I gave the briefing of the investigation [to him] at dawn,” he said.
“I oversaw the investigation into Rilwan’s disappearance directly. A very capable team worked on the investigation. They have worked to go as far as they can with the case,” he said.
However the Criminal Court found two defendants not guilty of Rilwan’s abduction.
Judge Adam Arif reprimanded the police and prosecution for failure to conduct a thorough investigation into what he called a “dangerous atrocity that seemed to have been conducted by a network of several people.”
Waheed said the president had helped facilitate information from government offices to police regarding the investigation.
“The president always instructed to speed up the investigation into bigger cases, to find the truth behind it,” said Waheed, who now works as a state minister.
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.
Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh told the press that Rilwan was tailed for more than two hours by several young men from Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang, one of whom was identified as Mohamed Suaid in security camera footage shown at the press briefing.
Despite waiting nearly two years to confirm the hostile surveillance, the Maldives Independent learned that police knew Rilwan was followed immediately before his abduction by Suaid, who was allowed to leave the country after his release from custody in November 2014.
Rilwan’s family announced it intended to sue the police for negligence, saying the verdict showed “at minimum state complicity and, at worst, active involvement in Rilwan’s abduction and disappearance.”