Amid mounting outrage, president promises imminent action over Rilwan abduction
No arrests have been made a week after a presidential commission disclosed findings.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Monday promised imminent measures in connection with the alarming findings of an independent commission that probed the abduction of a journalist five years ago.
Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan was abducted in the early hours of August 8, 2014 and murdered at sea by a local extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the presidential commission concluded after a 10-month inquiry.
“What I want tell you and the family is that this government and I will not back down, we will do everything necessary, we will take all the necessary steps forward,” Solih declared at a press briefing.
Efforts are now underway after a meeting among state institutions on Sunday, he added.
The reassurance came amid growing frustration and anger over the failure to arrest suspects a week after the commission’s chair Husnu Suood disclosed findings to the public. A day after the September 1 press briefing, Suood shared a draft report with parliament, which made a summary available to the public with further details and identities of suspects, including the names of police intelligence officers who followed Rilwan and listened to his phone calls weeks before the abduction.
In the face of mounting outrage, police claimed there was not enough evidence to arrest the two intelligence officers despite instructions by the Attorney General. The presidential commission agreed over the lack of evidence for prosecution, police said in a statement on Friday night.
The officers were suspended last week as police promised disciplinary action after an internal probe by the professional standards command.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, police chief Mohamed Hameed contended that the inquiry commission has “sole investigative authority over the case of Ahmed Rilwan” under the presidential commissions law passed in July, which “fully empowers the commission to directly seek arrest warrants for any person it deems necessary in the case.”
He added that police could not seek an arrest warrant on behalf of the presidential commission.
In a bid to address the lack of coordination, President Solih met with the police, prosecutor general, attorney general and the presidential commission on Sunday.
Solih told the press that he would personally oversee efforts and ensure cooperation with the commission’s inquiry. Suspects will be brought in for questioning or arrested if necessary, he added.
He stressed that the investigation was ongoing and urged the commission to complete its final report. The second draft shared on September 1 included new information about Rilwan’s alleged murder that was not known when a first draft was compiled in May, he explained.
He commended the commission’s “difficult work” and expressed confidence in achieving its purpose. But the president did not instruct the commission to share its draft report with parliament, he revealed, adding that he did not share it with the police, prosecutor general or attorney general.
The draft report shared with parliamentary group leaders by Speaker Mohamed Nasheed contained information that could impede the investigation if it was leaked, he said.
The president said there were more “dots that need to be connected” and repeatedly urged lawmakers not to compromise the investigation.
Asked about parliament debating the report and sending it for a committee review, Solih declined to comment but said that parliament has legal authority for its work under separation of powers.
But he advised against disclosing information that could obstruct the investigation. He also appealed for cooperation and stressed that the objective was “finding out what happened to Rilwan and bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
On Sunday, parliament’s security services oversight committee held a closed-door session with members of the presidential commission.
The president also announced plans to amend the terrorism law and criminal procedures law in order to “properly define terrorism” and authorise longer detention of terror suspects. Amendments would be submitted to parliament in the near future, he added.