The brother of a key suspect in the abduction of The Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan has been arrested on suspicion of threatening the missing journalist’s brother.
According to the police, Ibrahim Aleef Rauf, from Henveiru Hilton in Malé, was arrested on April 20 on suspicion of threatening Moosa Rilwan.
The criminal court transferred him to house arrest on the same day, but the Prosecutor General’s office has since appealed the decision before the High Court. Aleef remains under house arrest.
His older brother, Aalif Rauf, 29, was arrested along with a second suspect on April 5, days after the police’s admission that Rilwan was abducted from outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé on August 8, 2014. A red car owned by Aalif is suspected to have been used in the abduction, police said.
Moosa Rilwan told The Maldives Independent that today that he was assaulted by Aalif Rauf and another man while he was driving on a motorcycle with his wife.
“Aleef kicked me and we drove off, and they tailed us as we drove through Male. We shook them off, reported the case to the police that day. Later that day, I saw Aleef waiting outside my wife’s house, where I live,” he recalled.
“We didn’t go back home that night. I also received a call that night from someone who claimed to have information that the Kuda Henveiru gang were planning to kill me. I reported all of these incidents to the police. The police checked CCTV footage from cameras in the area.”
Rilwan also tweeted about the incident at the time.
— Rilwan (@rilvarn) April 14, 2016
In early April, the police also revealed that DNA samples lifted from the trunk of a red car owned by Aalif matched Rilwan’s mother’s DNA.
Despite objections by the police, Aalif and Mohamed Nooradheen, 31, were also transferred to house arrest by the criminal court on April 22. The High Court moved the two suspects back to police custody on April 28.
Aalif and Nooradheen were arrested on suspicion of links to the abduction and alleged attempts to tamper with evidence.
Soon after Rilwan’s disappearance was reported, his neighbors said they had witnessed a man being forced into a car at knifepoint outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé.
Rilwan’s family has accused the police of negligence, questioning why officers had failed to investigate the abduction when it was first reported, but police said officers on duty that night had done all they could.
The police also confirmed last month that several young men with the Kuda Henveiru gang – led by Aalif – had followed Rilwan for over two hours on the night he went missing.
The chief suspect, Mohamed Suaid, was arrested in September of 2014, but was released by the criminal court a few weeks later.
Suaid left the Maldives in January 2015 with both Aalif and Aleef’s brother Azlif Rauf, a former soldier who was arrested in connection with the 2012 brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali. Azlif was never charged with the killing.
Suaid and Azlif’s family say the pair died in battle in the Syrian civil war last year, but the claim has been disputed by opposition politicians.
The fourth brother of the Rauf family, Inthif Rauf, is also in police custody on a charge of illegal weapons possession. His trial is ongoing.
In September 2014, human rights NGO, the Maldivian Democracy Network, had published a comprehensive report into Rilwan’s disappearance, detailing the involvement of Kuda Henveiru gang. But the police dismissed the report as politically motivated.
The police also insisted that DNA analysis was insufficient to link the August 8 abduction with Rilwan’s disappearance.
Days after the MDN report’s release, a machete was lodged in the front door of The Maldives Independent’s (formerly Minivan News) offices. The suspect was released by the criminal court.
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