Three young men have been charged with terrorism over the abduction of Ahmed Rilwan, more than three years after the Maldives Independent journalist was forced into a car at knifepoint outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé.
The Prosecutor General’s office pressed charges against suspected gang members Aalif Rauf, Mohamed Nooradeen, and Mohamed Suaid on August 15, a spokesman said. They were charged under the 1990 anti-terrorism act with “the act or the intention of kidnapping or abduction of a person or of taking a hostage.”
The charges were raised with reference to article 6(b) of the law, which prescribes a penalty of 10 to 15 years imprisonment or banishment for persons found guilty of terrorism “without the loss of life”.
“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,” PG spokesman Ahmed Thaufeeq said.
The police spokesman declined to comment “for the time being”.
Rilwan’s sister told the Maldives Independent that the family was not informed of the developments.
“Don’t they have to notify the family? It has been over a month now. Now they are charging people even though they claim they still don’t know what happened to him, they have not shared any such information with the family,” said Shehenaz Abdulla.
“It has become clear that this government has something to hide, that they are trying not to share what is happening with regard to the case with Rilwan’s family. My mother has been crying in front of Rilwan’s wardrobe ever since she heard. This has become an additional burden. How are they going to go to trial without knowing what happened to Rilwan?”
Of the three suspects, Aalif and Nooradeen were arrested in April last year shortly after the police confirmed that Rilwan was forced into a red car that belonged to the former, believed to be a senior member of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang.
DNA analysis of hairs lifted from the trunk of Aalif’s car matched that of Rilwan’s mother, according to the police.
After initially denying any link between Rilwan’s disappearance and an abduction reported by his neighbours, who saw a man being forced into a red car at knifepoint, Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh told the press that Rilwan was tailed for more than two hours by several young men from the Kuda Henveiru gang.
The chief suspect, Mohamed Suaid, was detained for a few weeks in September 2014 but was released by the criminal court. He left the country in January 2015 with Aalif’s brother Azlif Rauf, a former soldier arrested for the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.
Their families say the pair died fighting in a battle in Syria.
The police admission of Rilwan’s abduction in April last year came just weeks before a UN panel launched an inquiry.
The police confirmed the findings of a private investigation commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network that implicated radicalised gangs 45 days after the abduction.
But the police had labelled MDN’s report politically motivated at the time and claimed Rilwan’s family was subject to political influence in their campaign to find him.
In February this year, Rilwan’s family filed a lawsuit against the police seeking “the available facts of the events” that followed his abduction because the police refused to disclose any information.
The family also asked oversight bodies, the National Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, for help in pressuring the police for an independent inquiry.