No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan
The Criminal Court yesterday released one of four suspects arrested in connection with the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.
A police media official confirmed to Minivan News today that the court released the suspect after he was taken before a judge for extension of remand detention.
The court ordered a second suspect to be placed under house arrest for five days, the media official explained, and granted extensions of seven days and 10 days respectively for the two remaining suspects.
On September 28, police arrested three suspects – two 22-year-old men and one 24-year-old man – on suspicion of involvement in Rilwan’s disappearance. The Criminal Court extended the detention of the 22-year-old pair for five days and the 24-year-old man for seven days.
The court granted a five-day extension of remand detention for a fourth suspect arrested on September 29.
Rilwan has been missing for 59 days and is believed to have been abducted at knife point outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé around 2:00am on August 8.
In a press statement on Thursday (October 2), Rilwan’s family called on the police “respectfully” to share findings of the investigation and update the family, friends and wider public on progress made so far.
“Every day and night that passes without the truth of the case being revealed is filled with questions, anxiety, and deep sadness for the family,” the statement read.
The delay in providing answers to the public creates fear and anxiety in society as well as despair over personal safety, it added.
The statement concluded with an appeal to include Rilwan in prayers offered during the Hajj pilgrimage and Eid al-Adha period.
Following the arrests last week, both Rilwan’s family and human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) welcomed the “progress in the police investigation” and offered its support.
“The Criminal Court’s extension of their detention signifies progress in the investigation,” said MDN.
However, the police have yet to offer possible theories or lines of inquiry being followed in the investigation, noting on September 15 that no “conclusive evidence” has been found between Rilwan’s disappearance and a reported abduction outside his apartment building.
MDN released an investigation report last month implicating radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s suspected abduction.
The investigation report by Glasgow-based Athena Security confirmed evidence of possible “hostile surveillance” of Rilwan at the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé conducted by two known affiliates of Malé-based Kuda Henveiru gang. One of the suspects is identified as Ahmed Shiran Saeed.
Minivan News understands Shiran is currently in police custody for unrelated charges.
Citing the abduction of several young men in June by a vigilante group in a push to identify online activists advocating secularism or professing atheism, the report said gang activity in Rilwan’s abduction was a “strong possibility”.
The report noted increased radical activity among members of three main gangs in Malé – Bosnia, Kuda Henveiru, and Buru – and claimed members had participated in attacks against individuals they deem “un-Islamic”.
Rilwan had “regularly received clear threats to his life” for his outspoken criticism of religious extremists, the report said.
One man named in the report, vandalised Minivan News’ security camera on Thursday (September 25) shortly before two others buried a machete in the building’s door.
A Minivan News journalist received death threats shortly thereafter, which read, “You will be killed or disappeared next. Watch out.”
While police arrested a 32-year-old suspect Thursday night on charges of stealing the security camera – clearly identifiable on the CCTV footage – the Criminal Court released the suspect with conditions the following day.