Social activist website Avaaz has called upon President Abdulla Yameen and his foreign minister Dunya Maumoon to identify those involved in the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.
“We call on you to ensure a thorough investigation into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and bring to justice all those involved in his alleged abduction,” read the petition launched this week.
Avaaz – which means ‘voice’ in various languages – is urging Maldivian authorities to protect free speech in the Maldives and to address the threat of violent extremism.
A private investigation into the 29-year-old’s disappearance implicated radicalised gangs, while – despite a lack of progress in the search – the home minister has acknowledged gang involvement.
Avaaz campaigns in 15 different languages, claims over 40 million members in 194 countries, and has been described as the “globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network” by the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
Rilwan’s brother Moosa told the organisation that he had turned to them after fearing that Maldivian authorities were doing nothing to aid the search.
“Rilwan was a brave journalist who exposed the dangerous Islamic radicals operating in these paradise islands and who had issued many death threats to my brother. But many of these extremists have links with ruling politicians and that’s why the police are not moving on Rilwan’s case,” suggested Rilwan.
“The police will look for him and find him if their superiors order them to do so. I believe government officials are complicit in this case,” said Easa, aged 67.
After suggesting opposition groups, friends, and family of the journalist were obstructing the investigation, authorities have assured that the search continues six months after Rilwan was last seen at the Hulhumalé ferry terminal – shortly before witnesses reported a man being forced into a car outside of Rilwan’s apartment.
Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed told the media last month that the search was continuing without “interruption or boredom”, though he declined from revealing specifics, saying that information previously circulated by sources had “cast a shadow over our work”.
While foreign minister Dunya has previously spoken out about the case, noting the importance of protecting free speech, President Yameen has yet to comment on the matter beyond a brief remark made shortly after the disappearance.
Rilwan’s brother told Avaaz that international pressure was the only thing that would make the authorities act, noting the country’s heavy reliance on the billion dollar tourism industry.
“This Sunday [January 8] it will be 6 months since Rilwan disappeared. When we get to 50,000 signatures, Avaaz will take out ‘Missing person’ ads in major Maldivian newspapers and launch a massive media awareness campaign on the extremism and corruption in my beautiful islands,” said Moosa.
“Please join my family’s search for Rilwan.”
After 2 million people signed the petition, the High Court overturned the sentence in August 2013.
Deputy Minister of Tourism at the time of the first petition Mohamed Maleeh Jamal – now minister of youth and sports – called the campaign’s motive “dubious”.
Meanwhile, then President Dr Mohamed Waheed – to whom the petition was addressed – thanked the international community for its concern but warned against calls for a tourism boycott.
In response, Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel denied a boycott had been called for, suggesting that tourists had the right to know the issues of countries they intend to visit.
“Around the world people are interested (and have a right to know) what kind of systems they’re supporting with their tourism dollars, and to make their holiday decisions accordingly,” said Patel.
Sign the petition here
(PHOTO: RILWAN’S BIRTHDAY EVENT, JANUARY 18, 2014; MINIVAN NEWS ARCHIVE)
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