Family members and friends of missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan have papered the walls of the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé today (November 16) with new posters to mark 100 days since the journalist disappeared.
“The old posters fade, but we do not forget,” Rilwan’s sister Fathimath Shehenaz told reporters.
Rilwan was last seen on the Hulhumalé ferry in the early hours of August 8. He is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint at 2 am outside his apartment in Hulhumalé.
The posters of newspaper Haveeru’s August 22 front page carried the question ‘Was it Rilwan who was abducted in Hulhumalé?’ Family members and friends stenciled #PoliceMvFail over the posters.
“Today is the 100th day since he disappeared. But the state, the Maldives Police Services in particular, are yet to answer if it was Rilwan who was abducted in Hulhumalé,” Shehenaz said.
Police had arrested four people over the case in October. One suspect was held in police custody for five weeks, but the Criminal Court transferred him to house arrest this morning.
In a statement today, Rilwan’s mother Aminath Easa condemned the state’s failure to investigate her son’s disappearance and said, “the Maldivian state has failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime.”
“We do not believe the government has protected individuals right to life as per Article 21 of the constitution,” the statement continued.
Detailing the state’s failings in investigating the case, the statement noted:
- The President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen has refused to comment on the case
- There is no apparent progress in the Maldives Police Service’s investigation
- The state has failed to investigate threats of violence and murder against journalists and non-governmental organisations who sought to uncover the truth behind the disappearance
- Home Minister Umar Naseer’s contradictory statements on the case appear to show the state’s disregard for the case
- The Majlis threw out a 5000 strong signature petition calling on the parliament to hold law enforcement agencies accountable
The state is obliged to investigate Rilwan’s disappearance and find him, the statement continued, arguing a family must not be reduced to begging the state’s institutions for answers.
“We, Rilwan’s family, will continue to remind the state of its responsibilities and will continue to do all we can to find him.”
Human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network released a report in September implicating radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance.
Discounting theories of voluntary disappearance and suicide, the investigation – conducted by Glasgow-based Athena Intelligence and Security – concludes the disappearance is likely to have been an abduction.
The report confirmed evidence of possible “hostile surveillance” at the terminal conducted by two known affiliates of Malé based Kuda Henveiru gang.
Former president and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed in a tweet today said the police “are incapable of finding Rilwan because it has been taken hostage by gangs associated with ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria].”
Home Minister Umar Naseer has previously acknowledged involvement of criminal gangs in the case.
Rilwan’s family on October 29 accused the police of negligence and have filed a complaint with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).