Minivan News understands that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) has requested immigration services withhold the passports of four individuals in relation to the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.
The news marks the first confirmation of progress in the search for the 28-year-old, missing for 19 days. The case is widely regarded as being the most complicated investigation ever faced by the service.
Further details of the police’s investigation have not been made public, although local news outlet Raajje.mv has reported the men under suspicion to be aged between 20 and 25-years-old. Two are reported to be from Gaaf Alifu Thinadhoo, one from Fuvahmulah, and a fourth man from Malé.
Immigration officials were not able to comment on these reports at the time of publication.
Rilwan was last seen on the 1am ferry to Hulhumalé on August 8, shortly before a man fitting his description was seen being forced into a vehicle directly outside Rilwan’s apartment.
Local media are also reporting that a vehicle was taken into police custody last week in relation to the incident.
Minivan News observed several men acting suspiciously in the Malé ferry terminal at the time of Rilwan’s appearance on CCTV footage at 12:44am, August 8.
With public criticism of the police’s investigation growing, the MPS has publicly accused both the family and media outlets of hindering its search efforts.
The family has offered a reward for information leading to the finding of Rilwan, with the figure raised to MVR200,000 yesterday.
Earlier this week, Rilwan’s mother gave an impassioned plea during a demonstration outside the People’s Majlis following the presentation of a letter urging MP’s help in the search.
“Please don’t do this. Help us. Please. I don’t know where he is. I do not know if he is alive. I do not know if he is dead,” Aminath Easa, 67-years-old, begged authorities.
With three days left before the parliament goes into recess, the Majlis has yet to take firm action on the journalist’s unprecedented disappearance, despite the issue being lodged in three separate committees.
After an urgent motion from Maldivian Democratic Party MP Imthiyaz Fahmy was resoundingly approved last week, with MPs subsequently calling for a speedy investigation.
MDP MP Ibrahim Shareef said he did not believe that lack of progress in investigating either the death threats or Rilwan’s disappearance was “a coincidence.”
MP Inthi himself reported receiving a death threat immediately after submitting the motion yesterday, while members of Rilwan’s family have reported intimidation while conducting their own search efforts.