The family of The Maldives Independent’s journalist, Ahmed Rilwan, has alleged state-involvement in his abduction and disappearance nearly two years ago.
The police’s admission last month that Rilwan was abducted outside his apartment in August 2014, despite previously insisting otherwise, “demonstrates the extent to which police negligence and political influence by government officials have hampered the probe and obstructed justice,” Rilwan’s family said in a statement to mark the World Press Freedom Day.
Today marks the 635th day since Rilwan disappeared.
Urging oversight bodies to look into state involvement in tampering with evidence, and allowing suspects to flee the country, the family said: “We note that a thorough inquiry requires identification of those in positions of authority who attempted to obscure the truth in Rilwan’s disappearance, and their reasons for doing so.”
Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh, on April 2, had confirmed claims made in a 2014 report into Rilwan’s abduction by human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network, and said that members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang had tailed Rilwan for over two hours on the night he went missing.
DNA samples taken from the trunk of a red car – alleged to have been used in Rilwan’s abduction – matched that of the missing journalists’ mother, they said.
The owner of the red car, Aalif Rauf, a notorious gangster, and a second man were arrested last month. The chief suspect who tailed Rilwan, Mohamed Suaid, had meanwhile left the Maldives in January last year, the police revealed
“Suaid was allowed the opportunity to flee, because of police negligence, and because he was freed despite clear evidence of his complicity in this act of terror,” the statement read. “This is a clear indication of the lack of concern towards acts of terror by law enforcement agencies.”
The police only arrested Aalif last month, despite knowing his car was used in the abduction, the family noted.
A thorough inquiry must identify everyone involved in the organising, financing and carrying out Rilwan’s abduction, they said.
Aalif’s brother Aleef Rauf was arrested in late April for threatening Rilwan’s brother, Moosa Rilwan. He is currently in police custody.
Speaking to the press outside her home, Rilwan’s sister, Mariyam Fazna said Tuesday: “We believe the delays in this investigation are caused by political influence.
“We had shared all information we had received with the police throughout 2014, but they did not give much thought to that information then. But from the police’s press conference, we knew that information had been used in the investigation. The question that comes to our minds is why they had hidden this for so long?”
Rilwan’s mother Aminath Easa said: “I will try to find him however long I may live, I don’t care what anyone says about it.”
President Abdulla Yameen had refused requests for a meeting, she added.
Home Minister Umar Naseer in November revealed that former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, detained on suspicion of links to an explosion on the president’s speedboat, had been questioned over Rilwan’s disappearance.
Rilwan’s abduction has received global attention with Reporters Without Borders referring the case to the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances. The US government and the European Union parliament have also expressed concern.