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Rilwan’s family goes to court for truth behind disappearance

The family filed a right to information request at the civil court asking its intervention to find out “the available facts of the events” that followed Rilwan’s abduction on August 8, 2014.



Ahmed Rilwan’s family is taking legal action against the Maldivian police on the grounds that it refused to disclose information about the journalist’s disappearance more than 900 days ago.

The family of the Maldives Independent journalist filed a right to information request at the civil court in December, asking its intervention to find out “the available facts of the events” that followed his abduction on August 8, 2014.

The police turned down the request at talks mediated by the civil court, the family said in a statement on Tuesday. The case will now be heard in court.

“At three different meetings, the police maintained that revealing any information would compromise the investigation,” a spokesman for the family said.

Rilwan’s family said they regretted that the case was going to trial.

“We wish to make clear that we do not expect the police to disclose information that might compromise their investigation. However, with nine months passing since we last received an update on the case, we feel that we are unable to wait any longer while being told the investigation is ‘ongoing’,” a statement by the family read.

They contended that strong communication between the police and victims was in the public interest.

The police declined to comment.

Rilwan’s family has previously accused the state of involvement in his disappearance, alleging police negligence in investigating the case.

They claim that the police failed to initiate a search when Rilwan’s neighbours reported a man being forced into a car at knifepoint outside his apartment building, and that the police allowed suspects arrested over the abduction to leave the country following their release.

The government, however, has denied involvement.

The police meanwhile initially denied any link between Rilwan’s disappearance and the reported abduction. Then in a stark reversal, Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh said Rilwan taken into a car that belonged to a notorious gangster in April last year, just weeks before the UN launched an inquiry and more than 600 days after the incident.

Satheeh said that several young men with the Kuda Henveiru gang had tailed Rilwan for over two hours on the night he went missing. The chief suspect, Mohamed Suaid, was detained for a few weeks in September 2014.

Suaid 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. He was never formally charged.

Their families say the pair died fighting in a battle in Syria last year, but the claim has been disputed by opposition politicians.

Shortly after confirming Rilwan’s abduction, police arrested Aalif Rauf, 29 years, and Mohamed Nooradeen, 31 years, both alleged to have tailed Rilwan before he was abducted. However, after two months in police custody, both suspects were freed.

At the time, Aalif’s brother, Ibrahim Aleef Rauf, was also detained briefly on charges of threatening Rilwan’s brother, Moosa Rilwan.

The police have also questioned former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb over the disappearance and said they are also investigating an attempt at forging Rilwan’s passport, which they say was made “to make it appear as he had left or was out of the country.”

At the time of the attempted cover-up, several pro-government websites, citing a blog that later turned out to fake, claimed Rilwan had died in the Syrian civil war. Ruling party lawmakers and activists had also accused the family of running a smear campaign against the government.

The case has received global attention, with calls for an independent inquiry by the US State Department and by press freedom groups, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists.