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Evidence points to murder of missing journalist Rilwan: Suood

Mariyam Malsa
01 September 2019, MVT 15:01
Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances' President Husnu al-Suood speaks at a press conference. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
01 September 2019, MVT 15:01

Husnu al-Suood, the president of the Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances, on Sunday, stated that evidence collected thus far implied that Journalist Ahmed Rilwan was murdered.

Despite the court ruling that Rilwan’s arrival in Hulhumale’ on the night of his disappearance was unproven, Suood asserted that the journalist did reach the reclaimed suburb per witnesses from the ferry and cell towers in Hulhumale’ which picked up his phone signal.

Two of Rilwan’s neighbours had testified to seeing an individual forced inside a red car on the night of his disappearance.

The commission’s president stated that this individual was undeniably Rilwan as it has been proven that the journalist had been stalked and that he disappeared within the time frame.

Suood stated that the evidence indicated that Rilwan was then transferred to a dinghy and killed on a marine vessel. However, Suood said that disparities between different testimonies prevented the aforementioned evidence from being sufficient to prove a murder.

Certain testimonies claim that some suspects aboard the vessel had spoken out against killing Rilwan after he declared his belief in Islam, while others remained adamant on killing him for his alleged ‘crimes’.

According to Suood, the owner of the vessel in question was identified as well. A previous intel report revealed that a dinghy was prepared to transport two kidnapped persons.

Furthermore, Suood revealed that former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb could be charged with obstruction of justice concerning Rilwan’s case.

The commission’s president claimed that Yameen attempted to divert Rilwan’s investigation via ‘sihuru’ (black magic), and by sending the police to search residences in capital Male’ and its suburb of Vilimale’. Suood alleged that Adeeb sent messages to former Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Didi, asking for the release of a suspect in Rilwan’s case who was set free following the exchange.

Threatened by extremists

Suood also revealed that Maldivian insurgents in Syria had threatened Rilwan via Facebook prior to his disappearance.

The commission’s president disclosed details of an exchange between Rilwan and Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM), an organisation which claims to consist of Maldivian insurgents based in Syria and Maldives. BASM accused Rilwan of disbelieving in God based on a piece he wrote while working for Minivan News. He defended himself, asserting that he could not be called an atheist and that he had never disrespected God or the prophet.

Rilwan also requested BASM to avoid spreading false allegations and to speak to him directly if there was an issue. In reply BASM stated that a meeting could be set up when there was free time and warned that ‘dark days’ were ahead.

The commission’s president stated that the same perpetrators were behind Rilwan’s case and the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed. He expressed the danger posed by these individuals.

Suood also stated that supporters of the Islamic State (IS) were involved in high profile robberies including the theft of MVR 1.3 million from BHM traders. He went on to reveal that stolen funds are divided into three parts so that a third of the total is sent to foreign insurgent groups.

According to Suood, these individuals operated in six-man cells led by a leader who worked to recruit more members. Targets of propaganda are usually youths and school children. These groups operate in such a way to escape detection.

The commission’s president expressed concern, stating that the level of religious extremism in Maldives was greater than previously estimated and that widespread cooperation would be needed to remedy the issue.

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