Family of missing Maail criticise police response

The family of 24-year-old Abdulla Maail, reported missing on January 27, has expressed concerns that police have been negligent in their investigation of his disappearance.

Lhaimagu Island Council has echoed these concerns, saying they are “not at all satisfied” with the manner the police have handled parts of the investigation.

Maail – from Dhaalu Atoll Kudahuvadhoo – went missing from the uninhabited island of Firunbaidhoo in Shaviyani Atoll, where he was employed on an agriculture project.

Only one other person, 62-year-old Hassan Ali, was on the island at the time of the disappearance. He reported Maail to be missing on the afternoon of January 27, according to police.

Police officials have denied the suggestions of negligence, saying that the search up to this point had been prompt and thorough.

‘Delays narrow chances of finding Maail’: Council

Lhaimagu Councillor Ahmed Shinan said the police had taken long time to respond after the disappearance was reported, expressing concern that the chances of finding Maail had subsequently narrowed.

“Hassan Ali told us, in the presence of other council members and police, that he reported Maail’s disappearance to police at 4.30pm. Police, however, did not arrive on the island until after 11pm that night,” claimed the councillor.

“It took over 6 hours for police to come, when the distance between Firunbaidhoo and Fonadhoo can be travelled in just under 10 minutes by speedboat. We heard later from the island’s proprietor that police refused to come until he arranged speed boat transfer for them”.

Police today acknowledged  some “transportation challenges” after the case was reported, but said they had begun work on the case immediately after being alerted.

“We only received reports at 6.30pm and I think police reached the scene around 9pm,” a media official told Minivan News.

According to the Shinan, however, locals waited hours for police to arrive at the scene.

Locals search the island of Firunbaidhoo

“This was valuable time wasted when we could have commenced the search for Maail. We’re talking about a human being that’s gone missing, not some petty robbery. We cannot afford to be careless in the investigation,” he said.

Shinan said that the police had left the island unattended after the initial search, giving potentially guilty parties an opportunity to eliminate or tamper with evidence.

He also argued that witnesses had not been investigated thoroughly enough, suggesting that reports of a supply dinghy having visited the island minutes before Maail’s absence was realised could be key.

The councillor also expressed disappointment that it took police over two days to begin searching the sea.

Police have denied the delay, saying that the coast guard-assisted search began the day after the reported disappearance. Officials declined from giving further details as the investigation continues.

Family feels unsupported

Maail’s brother Mohamed Shifau has travelled to the capital Malé from Meemu atoll, after the family had been unable to contact Shaviyani police.

“We have continuously tried calling the head of the Shaviyani Police Station to ask for updates on the investigation, but he hasn’t answered our calls even once in the past week,” he told Minivan News.

“There are certain aspects of the investigation that we believe the police overlooked, some people that they haven’t questioned, and so on. We shared that information with the police in Malé.”

The family have also sent a letter outlining their concerns to the Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, though they have as yet received no reply.

Dissatisfied with the response from police, Shifau appealed to politicians for assistance, meeting with politicians across the spectrum.

“The Shaviyani Atoll Fonadhoo constituency’s parliamentarian Ali Saleem met with us, but said he could give us no more than five minutes. He stated that the police will investigate the matter and there is nothing else he can do for us,” Shifau explained.

After failing to contact Kudahuvadhoo constituency MP Ahmed Amir, Shifau met with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“The MDP was very sympathetic, and Chairperson Ali Waheed promptly arranged a meeting with a committee from the party. They provided assistance by guiding our family on future steps that can be taken,” Shifau said.



Police negligent in investigating Rilwan’s disappearance, says Maldivian Democracy Network

Human Rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has accused the Maldives Police Services of negligence in investigating the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

In a statement issued today, MDN condemned the police’s failure to inform the public of progress in investigations and failure to confirm whether an abduction reported on the night Rilwan went missing is connected to his disappearance.

“It has been 77 days since journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla was abducted. The Maldivian Democracy Network believes the Maldives Police Services has been negligent in conducting a timely investigation aimed at finding Rilwan and saving his life,” the NGO said.

Rilwan was last sighted at 12:55am on August 8 at the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé. Eyewitnesses have since said they saw a man being forced into a car at knifepoint infront of Rilwan’s apartment building around the time he would have reached home.

The abduction was reported to the police and a forensics team confiscated a knife that was dropped on the ground.

Rilwan has not been seen or heard from since.

MDN also slammed Home Minister Umar Naseer and Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed for suggesting the NGO’s investigative report implicating radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance was responsible for police’s failure to finding Rilwan.

“Each day and every moment that passes without knowledge of Rilwan’s whereabouts could endanger his life further and deteriorate public’s trust in the police to ensure public safety,” said the NGO.

Inconsistency and negligence

MDN urged the police to clarify the connection between the reported abduction and Rilwan’s disappearance, stating “This organisation believes the Maldives Police Services is obligated to share the progress of investigations into criminal activity that have led to public outcry.”

Police statements on August 28 and September 4, and the police’s announcement that it was collecting forensic samples from three cars suggested they believed the abduction may be connected to Rilwan’s disappearance, MDN noted.

However, on September 16, the police said it had no concrete evidence to suggest the two incidents were related.

Police have yet to offer an explanation of this statement, and have not revealed who was forced into the car, MDN said. Moreover, the police have failed to reveal whether they are investigating the abduction as an unrelated and separate case.

Despite public outcry over the case and repeated requests for information on the investigation, the police have not shared any details with Rilwan’s family or the public, the statement noted.


The investigation – conducted by Glasgow based Athena Intelligence and Security – discounted theories of voluntary disappearance and suicide, and confirmed “hostile surveillance” of Rilwan at the ferry terminal by members of Malé based Kuda Henveiru gang.

Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed has accused the media and MDN for “obstructing” police investigations, claiming they had revealed leads.

Meanwhile, Naseer said the report had forced the police to change investigation technique and speed up the arrest of four individuals, leading to their early release.

“It has an extreme negative effect on an investigation when people who are not aware of the details of an investigation release reports and offer speculations based purely on hearsay with the intent of gaining some political advantage,” he said.

MDN today hit back at Waheed and Naseer’s claims stating, “instead of investigating allegations against [gang members] named in the report and clearing their names, the police attacked the report and attempted to cover up the criminal offenses outlined in the report.”

The media has previously publicised the names and photos of gang members identified in the report in relation to other criminal activity, the statement noted.

However, the police expressed no concern and “shamefully defended the gang members in the name of protecting human rights,” it said.

MDN also condemned the government’s claim that the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party was behind the report, stating “we condemn efforts to politicize this organisation’s work.”

The statement urged the police to refrain from “such undignified actions.”

Naseer has for the first time acknowledged gang involvement in Rilwan’s disappearance, on October 19 stating: “We already knew that there is a gang connection to Rilwan’s case. However, in a modern investigation, one doesn’t immediately arrest suspects. We leave them free and follow them and gather information.”

One man named in the report, Ahmed Muaz vandalised Minivan News’ security camera on 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.


Police officers “negligent” in Raajje TV arson attack: PIC

The Maldives Police Services was negligent in protecting opposition-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV from an arson attack that destroyed the station’s headquarters on October 7, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has said.

In a report released today, the PIC has recommended that the Prosecutor General file criminal charges against two unnamed officers – the Inspector of Police and the Shift In Charge (Shift IC) – who were on duty at the Galholhu Police Station on the night of the attack.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had issued a statement on the day of attack condemning the police’s failure to protect the station.

“This criminal act is a direct blow to freedom of information and we deplore the attitude of the police, who failed to do what was necessary to prevent the attack although the head of TV station requested protection a few hours before it took place,” RSF said.

Raajje TV had received credible information of an impending attack, and sent a letter asking for police protection, the report noted.

Senior police officers, on the orders of then Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, instructed the inspector of police in charge of the Galholhu Police Station to maintain a presence at the Raajje TV offices.

Further, upon realising there weren’t enough police officers to maintain static duty, a superior instructed the inspector of police to get additional officers from the operational duty department to carry out the task.

The inspector of police delegated the task to the shift IC, and falsely informed his superiors that police officers were on static duty at Raajje TV headquarters without checking to see if his orders were actually followed through, the report said.

Moreover, the Inspector of Police had not even asked the CCTV Command Center to aim the CCTV cameras at the Raajje TV building despite knowing the Maldives Police Services did not have enough officers to patrol the area that night.

The shift IC had “not done anything to find additional police officers to oversee security at Raajje TV,” the report stated. Moreover, the Shift IC had not informed any police officers patrolling Malé City that night of the possible attack on Raajje TV.

The PIC undertook the investigation on the Maldives Media Council’s request.

Meanwhile, the police say they have arrested eight adults and one minor for suspected involvement in the attack. Mohamed Meeaadh, 35 years, was arrested on December 2 after a manhunt.

The police have urged the public to forward any information regarding the attack and have pledged to provide protection to informers.

CCTV footage of the attack shows six masked men armed with machetes and iron rods breaking through a reinforced steel grill and a second wooden door before dousing the station’s control room and lobby with petrol. The ensuing fire destroyed the station’s offices, control room, computer system, and broadcasting and transmission equipment.

The station returned to air the same day with donated equipment.

Further footage shows an additional six masked men breaking and entering the building located next to the BKT Builing where Raajje TV’s offices are located. Raajje TV has said it believes the six men were attempting to find the station’s second studios.