A group of Maldivian journalists retraced Friday the final known footsteps of their abducted colleague, Ahmed Rilwan, in protest against the government’s response to a UN human rights panel on his disappearance.
Some 17 journalists from The Maldives Independent, Haveeru, Raajje TV, Sangu TV, CNM, VTV and Dhuvas boarded a ferry to Malé’s suburb island Hulhumalé at 4:30pm yesterday.
They staged a silent march there, carrying banners and posters, walking from the ferry terminal to Rilwan’s apartment building, where the reporter with The Maldives Independent (formerly Minivan News) had been abducted at knifepoint on August 8, 2014.
The group signed a handwritten declaration outside his building, resolving to “remain steadfast in the search for the truth in Rilwan’s disappearance until justice is served.”
The police, who have blocked all street protests in Malé, were no where in sight.
Many spoke out against the foreign ministry’s defence of police conduct and refusal to acknowledge the possible involvement of state officials in Rilwan’s abduction and disappearance.
The UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances is now reviewing the case.
“While we welcome the government’s engagement with the UN WGEID, we found its response, as outlined in a foreign ministry press release, lacking,” The Maldives Independent’s Editor Zaheena Rasheed said.
“Denying apparent police negligence and questioning the working group’s mandate to review this case, raises doubts over the government’s sincerity in resolving this case and bringing perpetrators to justice.”
The police only confirmed Rilwan’s abduction last April, just a month before the WGEID session.
Aalif Rauf, a notorious gangster whose car was suspected to have been used in the abduction, was arrested along with another man shortly after the admission. The police now say they too suspect the involvement of Aalif’s Kuda Henveiru gang in the incident.
Five young men belonging to the gang were arrested in September of 2014, but were released by the courts weeks later. Of the five, Mohamed Suaid, who police believe tailed Rilwan for over two hours on the night he went missing, left the Maldives for Syria the following January.
At the time, officials and supporters of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, accused Rilwan’s family of running a smear campaign against the government. Fake photos and blogs had also cropped up claiming Rilwan had died in battle in Syria.
Rilwan’s family, highlighting the departure of suspects from the Maldives and delays in the police probe, have accused the state of complicity.
The home ministry has meanwhile said that former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, detained over a blast on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat, was questioned over the disappearance.