No apparent progress in police search for Rilwan, family plans protest for Friday

The Maldives Police Service is continuing the search for missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan as a top priority, without “interruption or boredom”, Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed has said.

“In the year 2014, the case that the Maldives Police Services worked the most on and was unable to complete investigations into was the disappearance of Maafannu Shining Star Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla,” Waheed told the press today.

“I assure Rilwan’s family in this opportunity that the police will continue the search without any interruption or boredom. I wish for Rilwan’s safe return,” he said.

Rilwan is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint in Malé’s suburb Hulhumaé in the early hours of August 8.

“From our investigations so far, there is no evidence to suggest Rilwan is dead. Therefore, our hope is he is still safe and alive,”

Waheed refused to reveal details of the search for Rilwan despite repeated questions from the press.

Reporters questioned the commissioner on Rilwan’s whereabouts, whether Rilwan is believed to have been abducted or if his disappearance was voluntary, and on possible groups responsible for and their motivations for disappearing Rilwan.

“I am unable to provide additional details on this case, as some information revealed previously and information circulated by different sources cast a shadow over our work. Therefore, I am constrained from revealing ongoing efforts and plans for the future,” he said.

Rilwan’s family has accused the police of negligence, and has planned a march titled ‘Suvaalu March’ – or ‘Question March’ – on Friday (January 9).

The walk is to start at 4pm from Malé’s Artifical Beach area.

Police dragging their feet, says brother

Speaking to Minivan News, Rilwan’s brother Moosa Rilwan said the state had failed to protect his brother and public pressure was necessary to force the police to expedite investigations.

“Tomorrow marks the 154th day since my brother disappeared. The police are still dragging their feet. We are completely dependent on the police to find him. We can only move forward when the investigations are completed,” he said.

Public pressure had previously worked, resulting in the arrest of four individuals, he said.

The home ministry had told the family in a recent meeting that police are still waiting on analysis of DNA samples from two cars which may have been used to abduct Rilwan.

“Five months on, the DNA samples have not been analysed. No one is in custody anymore. No motive has been explained. Police still cannot definitively tell us if it was an abduction,” he said.

“Meanwhile, my family and I are reduced to begging the authorities for help. President Abdulla Yameen still refuses to comment on the case. This is unacceptable,” he said.

Rilwan’s family has filed a complaint with the Police Integrity Commission requesting the watchdog to investigate police negligence in the case.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has previously acknowledged involvement of gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance.

Gang involvement

Local media on Wednesday reported an individual arrested over the case traveled to Syria for jihad in early January. He was accompanied by six members of the Kuda Henveiru gang including Azlif Rauf, a suspect in the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

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 – concluded 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.

The report identified Azlif’s brother Arlif Rauf as the owner of a red car, which may have been used in an abduction reported on the night Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared.

Police were investigating Arlif’s car for having been illegally imported to Hulhumalé on August 4, and returned to Malé sometime between August 13 – 15, the report continued.

It also suggested gang leaders had been exposed to radical Islam during incarceration in prison, saying that they openly supported the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and recruited jihadists for the war in Syria and Iraq.

MDN on October 23 accused the police of negligence in investigating the disappearance for their failure to inform the public on progress and failure to confirm if the abduction reported on the night Rilwan went missing was related to his disappearance.

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