Missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla’s family has expressed concern over slow progress in the Maldives Police Service’s three-week long search.
The police released a statement on Thursday night claiming it had questioned 318 individuals, interrogated 111, searched 139 locations in Malé’s suburb island Hulhumalé and searched 267,197.5 square meters of ocean.
“These are just statistics. We want to find him. We want the police to tell us if they have leads, if there is progress,” Rilwan’s brother Moosa Rilwan told Minivan News today.
“We want to know what the results of these extensive searches are. It’s been a month, my family and I fear for his life,” Moosa said.
Rilwan was last seen boarding the Hulhumalé ferry on August 8 at 12:55am. Evidence gathered by Minivan News suggests Rilwan was abducted.
Eyewitnesses told Minivan News they saw a man being forced into a car at knifepoint in front of Rilwan’s apartment building at the time he is expected to have reached his house. The abductors dropped the knife and eyewitnesses reported the incident to the police. Minivan News understands the police confiscated the knife from the scene.
The police have said they took in two cars and have conducted forensic tests. Samples have also been sent abroad for further tests. Meanwhile, four individuals’ passports have also been withheld in connection to the case.
According to Moosa, the police have so far refused to publicly comment on whether there is a connection between the abduction and Rilwan’s disappearance.
“If the incident is not connected to Rilwan’s disappearance, who was abducted? What did the police do on the night after the abduction was reported? Why have they taken in two cars in relation to Rilwan’s disappearance?” Moosa questioned.
“Why have the police withheld passports? Have they been questioned? Are the police not afraid these men may go into hiding in the country?”
The police’s statement raises more questions than answers, he added.
According to the police, a specialist crime command team consisting of police officers from the intelligence department, forensics department, marine police specialist operations and divisional operations are working around the clock on the case.
The team is analysing 719 hours of CCTV footage from 101 cameras at 48 locations along the route Rilwan is believed to have traveled in Malé on the night of his disappearance.
Police are also investigating 638,000 cellphone numbers that have hit cell towers along the same route, the statement said.
Some 18 vessels in Hulhumalé lagoon including Safari boats, all of the beach area and empty lots in Hulhumalé, eight houses in Malé’s, four locations and the waste dump in Malé’s second suburb island Villingili were also searched, the police said.
Rilwan’s family will continue to support the police in the search, Moosa said.
The Human Rights Commission has also released a statement noting that it had yet to be updated on the authorities’ attempts to locate the missing journalist, despite having made a request for information more than two weeks ago.
An Avaaz petition has been launched calling on the Maldives government to expedite the search to find Rilwan and to guarantee a safe environment for all journalists, human rights defenders and bloggers in the Maldives.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has tabled the case with the People’s Majlis Security Services or 241 committee.
Minivan News understands Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer, Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed and Minister of Defense and National Security Mohamed Nazim were summoned to the confidential committee hearing on Thursday.
Rilwan’s friends and family have also gathered 5000 signatures on a Majlis petition calling on the parliament to press for a thorough and speedy investigation.
The family has offered MVR200,000 (US$ 12,945) for any information on Riwlan’s whereabouts.
Maldives media have also called for a speedy investigation in a joint statement and have met with the Commissioner of Police, MPs from the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives and MDP, Prosecutor General and Majlis Speaker Abdulla Maseeh regarding the case.
International organisations, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) and the UNHCR, have expressed concern over Rilwan’s disappearance.