Family and friends of missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan observed a minute of silence at the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé at 12:44am last night to mark one year after his disappearance.
Rilwan was last seen on CCTV footage entering the ferry terminal and is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment building in suburb Hulhumalé.
Rilwan’s mother, Aminath Easa, and his sisters broke down into tears at the brief ceremony.
Police continue to maintain that there is no conclusive evidence linking a reported abduction outside his apartment building to Rilwan’s disappearance. The abduction occurred around the time Rilwan would have reached home and no other person was reported missing in Hulhumalé or elsewhere in the Maldives.
“Losing a loved one is the biggest pain a family has to bear. We can never move on, not knowing if he is dead or alive,” Rilwan’s sister Mariyam Fazna said.
She called on the public to join a planned march at 4:00pm in Malé today to mark the anniversary.
Rilwan was a staunch critic of religious extremism, an active blogger and social media user, known widely by his Twitter handle @moyameehaa. He had received several threats for his criticism of extremist groups and had reported on journalists receiving threats shortly before his disappearance.
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Friday sent a letter to President Abdulla Yameen calling on the government to ensure a credible and independent investigation into his disappearance.
“As we approach the one-year anniversary of his disappearance, the investigation into his case has yielded no results,” the press statement said.
“The journalist’s colleagues have also told CPJ that you have declined to meet with Rilwan’s family despite their repeated requests. We ask that, in the spirit of human compassion, you meet with Rilwan’s family and provide them an opportunity to express their grievances.”
“President Yameen, if no independent investigation is launched into Rilwan’s disappearance, Maldives risks joining the ranks of violent or repressive states like Syria, Mexico, and Russia, where journalists go missing and anti-press violations are at a high. We ask that you take this opportunity to demonstrate that the Maldives is committed to ensuring full justice for all of its citizens.”
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also released a press statement today expressing concern over the “lack of credible investigation” into the Rilwan’s disappearance and urging the government to urgently ratify the UN Convention Against Enforced Disappearances.
The party noted that four suspects arrested in connection with the case belonged to “violent criminal gangs” and had been freed with the police claiming there was no evidence linking them to the alleged abduction.
Four young men were arrested in September last year, but were released within weeks. CCTV appears to show Rilwan being followed.
The MDP noted that some of the suspects are among over 200 Maldivian jihadis who have travelled to Syria and Iraq.
“While the government has denied the existence of violent Islam in the Maldives, it has failed to investigate any case relating to recruitment and financing of radical Islam in the Maldives,” the party said.
The MDP also observed that Rilwan disappeared after “months of fear mongering, hate speech and intimidation against him, journalists, human rights defenders and those who represented liberal ideologies.”
The police’s failure to investigate the threats has “led to an environment of fear and an accepted intimidation against progressive thinking,” the party said.
“The Maldives human rights situation has progressively eroded in the past few years with complete disregard to the safeguarding of rights enshrined in the Constitution.”
A report by Maldivian Democracy Network, a local human rights advocacy group, had concluded the likely involvement of radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance. Home Minister Umar Naseer has suggested the same, but later said some cases by their nature are unsolvable.
Rilwan’s friends took to social media today, remembering his humour, time spent with him, and urging the state to find him.
— Mizy Musthafa (@MizyMusthafa) August 8, 2015
— Yameen Rasheed (@yaamyn) August 8, 2015
Met him a couple of times at coffees/gatherings. Still remember a fun moment shared with him. #FindMoyameeha
— Maail (@maail) August 8, 2015
They thought we wud forget. We didn’t. #findmoyameehaa
— Armchair Blobitician (@BlobbityyBlob) August 8, 2015
— Yameen Rasheed (@yaamyn) August 8, 2015
I dnt knw Rilwan well. Had few conversations with him on twitter, but wit his sense of humor & strong opinions he stood out. #FindMoyameehaa
— Isha Ali (@ish_aa) August 8, 2015
— rayya (@rayyahussain) August 8, 2015
365 days. Avoided Hulhumale’ and even the ferry terminal because the pain of being reminded that Rilwan is not around is unbearable.
— Mariyath Mohamed (@EhJu) August 7, 2015
— yashuu (@yashhuoo) August 7, 2015
— Ibra (@ibramandhu) August 7, 2015
— Ed Woodward’s Slave (@haesham) August 7, 2015