After three long years since Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan was forcibly disappeared, the Prosecutor General (PG)’s Office on Sunday announced that it will officially be levying terrorism charges against three suspects behind his abduction.
According to the PG Office, the three suspects are being charged for kidnapping or abduction of persons under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The three suspects are: Alif Rauf from Male, Mohamed Noordeen from Vaadhoo in the southern Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, and Mohamed Suaid from Hulhudhoo in Addu City.
Two of the three individuals were first arrested on April 2016, also on the same charges; however, the Criminal Court, after two months, freed them from remand.
Suspect Alif Rauf is the brother of Azlif Rauf, who was accused of murdering the Ungoofaaru MP Dr Afrasheem in October 2012. Police had confirmed that the red car that witnesses reported seeing at the scene of Rilwan’s abduction in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale, belonged to Alif.
The police’s initial investigation on Rilwan’s disappearance revealed that his neighbours in Hulhumale had reported hearing a man scream about three times from that area late that night. Rilwan’s neighbours had also reported seeing a man “waving around his arm” from the open left door of the red car on the night of his disappearance.
Further, after forensic analyses, the police had concluded that the DNA found in the trunk of the car matched Rilwan’s mother’s DNA.
Whilst the police have not been able to figure out the details of what happened to the journalist, it had conclusively stated that he was forcibly disappeared after being tailed by individuals who were “affiliated with a gang” for some days.
Rilwan was disappeared on August 8, 2014. Since his disappearance, his family, friends and journalists have adamantly demanded the authorities to find out what happened to him. A “FindMoyameehaa” (“moyameehaa" was his Twitter handle, and translates to “mad man”) campaign was also initiated by his family colleagues, and a price of MVR 200,000 was offered to anyone who could source credible information regarding his disappearance.
His family and lawyers, throughout his disappearance, have insisted that the police were not doing everything within their power to find him. Later, on the third anniversary of his disappearance, his mother alleged that the government played a hand in his disappearance.
The decision to prosecute the three suspects came a month after the police announced that its Major Crimes Investigation Centre were re-investigating the cases of Dr Afrasheem’s murder and Rilwam’s abduction.
According to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the penalty for any person found guilty of an act of terrorism, without a loss of life, shall be sentenced between 10 - 15 years of imprisonment or banishment.