A “terrorist group” behind the abduction of Ahmed Rilwan in August 2014 has been identified with sufficient evidence to prosecute, according to the presidential commission on deaths and disappearances.
The commission shared its latest findings with Rilwan’s family two weeks ago, chair Husnu Suood tweeted on Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the Maldives Independent journalist’s disappearance.
Suood said the commission was considering revealing the details of the group before the end of August. Suood previously said the attempted murder of blogger Ismail Khilath Rasheed in June 2012, the assassination of lawmaker Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012, Rilwan’s abduction in August 2014, and the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed in April 2017 were all connected and carried out by an extremist group.
“What happened to Rilwan after the abduction, is a subject still under investigation by [the commission], and it is trying to verify and corroborate the information that it has received,” he added.
“[The commission] will deliver on its promise to find the truth in all cases under its investigation.”
The assurance came hours after Rilwan’s family released a press statement expressing concern with delays in providing answers as pledged when the current administration came to power.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih formed the inquiry commission on his first day in office in November.
More than eight months later, the state was “failing” to deliver justice, Rilwan’s family said, noting the failure to arrest suspects or prevent those complicit in a suspected cover-up from fleeing the country.
The family called for probes against “police who were negligent in investigating the case, members of the then-Police Integrity/National Integrity Commission who refused to take action, [and] the judge who released people suspected of abducting Rilwan.”
The family expressed concern in particular with Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Didi leaving the country. Didi, who was a criminal court judge at the time, was accused of releasing two suspects in November 2014 on the orders of then-tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.
One of the suspects, Mohamed Suaid – who was arrested with security camera footage showing him tailing Rilwan – was allowed to leave the country in January 2015 with Azlif Rauf, a former soldier charged in connection with the murder of moderate religious scholar Afrasheem Ali.
Their families claim the pair died fighting in Syria
Terrorism charges over Rilwan’s abduction were filed against Suaid along with Azlif’s brother Alif Rauf and Mohamed Nooradeen. They were acquitted in August 2017 with the judge blaming glaring investigative and prosecutorial failures.
– ‘Complicity or active involvement’ –
On Thursday, Rilwan’s family questioned the judge’s failure to order a fresh investigation.
The family previously said the not guilty verdict showed “at minimum state complicity and, at worst, active involvement in Rilwan’s abduction and disappearance.”
The Maldives Independent has seen chatlogs from a cabinet Viber group from August 22, 2014 – two weeks after Rilwan was abducted – in which former president Abdulla Yameen told home minister Umar Naseer that there was “no need to be overwhelmed by Rilwan’s case.” Naseer replied, “Ok, noted sir.”
Despite possessing evidence of hostile surveillance, police previously refused to say that Rilwan was abducted. They denied any link between an abduction at knife-point reported outside Rilwan’s apartment in Hulhumalé – seen by several eyewitnesses around the time he would have reached home – and his disappearance after Suaid followed him to the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé.
The police press briefing in April 2016 confirmed the findings of a private investigation commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network – which the authorities labelled as politically motivated at the time – that implicated radicalised gangs 45 days after the abduction.
Citing the abduction of several young men in June 2014 by a vigilante group in a push to identify online activists advocating secularism or professing atheism, the investigation report found gang activity in Rilwan’s abduction to be a “strong possibility.”
Days after the publication of the report, a machete was left on the front door of the Maldives Independent (formerly Minivan News) office after a man named in the report removed the security camera.
A Minivan News journalist received death threats shortly thereafter, which read, “You will be killed or disappeared next. Watch out.”
Five years ago, on this day, my colleague Ahmed Rilwan @moyameehaa was abducted outside his home. He has not been seen since. We are still waiting for answers. We are still waiting for justice #FindMoyameehaa Do better @DdcomMdv!
— Zaheena Rasheed 🎈 (@ZaheenaR) August 7, 2019
Five years on, very little has changed.
Rilwan’s grieving family is still looking for answers, while politicians keep buying time with show trials and pleasantries.
— މުޝްފިޤް މުޙައްމަދު (@MushfiqMohamed) August 8, 2019
The state have failed to answer. Who is/are behind the abduction, the motives, and what happened to Rilwan? Without answers, the democratic future looks bleak#FindMoyameehaa
— Thadu (@ithadu) August 8, 2019
5 years and 0 answers. Where is Rilwan?
Wherever you are, I hope you are at peace, Rilwan, and know that you are loved much by many. ❤️#FindMoyameehaa
— EhJu (@EhJu) August 8, 2019
5 years is inexcusably long for a mother to wait for answers about her missing son. For a family to struggle seeking justice. And for most of that time, for loved ones to keep asking for any semblance of compassion, sympathy, even interest by the authorities #FindMoyameehaa
— Afshan Latheef 🎈 (@AfshanLatheef) August 8, 2019
As we mark 5 years without answers to the multitude of questions regarding the forced disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, we call on the State to expedite the work of @DdcomMdv tasked with the investigation of murders and disappearances. #FindMoyameehaa pic.twitter.com/byO0w19ZVh
— Transparency MV (@TransparencyMV) August 8, 2019
Adeeb’s inquiries into obtaining a copy of Rilwan’s passport and trying to identify which organization would be alerted if he were to cross any immigration borders is something that wasn’t known previously. Why? So many whys, no answers. #FindMoyameehaa 😞 https://t.co/R0AawSGSnT
— sighpad.m™️🎈❓ (@sighpad) August 8, 2019
— Vijaan 🇲🇻 (@vij44n) August 8, 2019
— Mohamed Shafeeu (@shappiu) August 8, 2019
— Ahmed Naeem 🎈 (@naiim888) August 8, 2019
5 years on and we know nothing more than we did 5 years ago. There was some hope we would but yet again we remain waiting. There's not been enough done to #findmoyameehaa and that has to change.
— Ahmed Tholal🎈 (@Tholman_79) August 8, 2019
Imagine having someone you love disappear & not know what happened to them for years & years. Your mind coming up with horrible scenario after horrible scenario day in and day out wondering whether they are alive or dead or suffering… No one deserves this. #FindMoyameehaa
— Ula Ahmed (@LuaAhmed) August 8, 2019