Home Minister Umar Naseer has cast suspicion on detained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist more than a year ago. The home ministry in a tweet today announced that police are questioning Adeeb over Ahmed Rilwan’s disappearance.
Rilwan, who went missing on August 8, 2014, is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment building.
Despite a massive public outcry, the police have made little progress in the investigation. In an interview with V News, Naseer said: “I have now ordered the police to question Adeeb on Rilwan’s case. To question him and find out everything that can be found from him. That is what the police are doing now.”
Naseer told V News he had issued the order due to rumors of Adeeb’s involvement in the disappearance.
The former vice president, impeached just two weeks ago, is in custody on suspicion of links to the September 28 explosion on Yameen’s speedboat. The home ministry’s announcement comes a day before a mass protest by the opposition.
Adeeb’s supporters and Rilwan’s family have announced they too will join the Maldivian Democratic Party’s protest urging the release of political prisoners.
He said former ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim had also been questioned over rumors that Rilwan had been disappeared because he was investigating corruption allegations against Adeeb.
“Nazim was questioned to see if he had given such documents to Rilwan,” he was quoted as saying by V news.
Naseer, who had previously said gangs were involved in the journalist’s disappearance, today said that Azlif Rauf, a former solider implicated in the death of a parliamentarian in 2012, was a prime suspect in Rilwan’s case, too.
Azlif reportedly left to Syria in January with one of the five suspects arrested over Rilwan’s disappearance. His family now claims he died while fighting in Syria in mid-May.
An investigative report published by Maldivian Democratic Network had identified Azlif’s brother Arlif Rauf as the owner of the red car which may have been used in Rilwan’s suspected abduction.
The report implicated radicalized gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance and confirmed evidence of possible “hostile surveillance” at the terminal conducted by two known affiliates of the Malé-based Kuda Henveiru gang led by the Rauf brothers. Adeeb is said to be closely affiliated with Malé’s gangs.
His lawyer Hussain Shameem has denied Naseer’s claims, saying his client is yet to be questioned about Rilwan.
Rilwan’s sister Fathimath Shehenaz told The Maldives Independent that President Abdulla Yameen must also be questioned if the government suspects his former deputy’s involvement.
“We are certain president Yameen has a hand in the disappearance of Rilwan. We don’t think it enough to question Adeeb only,” she said.
She added: “This government is not sincere in its approach in Rilwan’s case. Yameen refuses to meet us. Maybe it is our fate to despair for the rest of our lives.”
The home ministry’s first tweet sparked outrage because it said Rilwan had been murdered. “Adeeb is being questioned about the murder of Ahmed Rilwan,” the now-deleted tweet said. Naseer, claiming the tweet was a mistake by his staff, later replaced the word murder with disappearance.
Condemning the home ministry’s first tweet as irresponsible, Shehenaz said: “This is outrageous. Our mother has not stopped crying since. We are so fed up of this government.”
Earlier in August, police officers pepper sprayed Rilwan’s mother and other family members at a memorial walk held to mark one year after his disappearance.
In July, the police claimed that there was no evidence linking Rilwan’s disappearance with the abduction reported outside his apartment. The police said they have received DNA analysis of samples taken from three cars suspected to have been used in the abduction, but could not “conclusively state” that there was a connection between the incident and Rilwan’s disappearance.
The MDP and Rilwan’s family had called for an independent inquiry into Rilwan’s disappearance.
In late August, Reporters Without Borders referred Rilwan’s case to the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances.
A petition with 5,500 signatures calling for a speedy investigation was submitted to the parliament last year, but remains stalled at a pro-government-majority committee.