Six people onboard a vessel where a local journalist was beheaded in 2014 later left Maldives for Syria, according to the Disappearances and Deaths Commission (DDCom).
Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, 28, a journalist who worked for Minivan News (later renamed Maldives Independent), was last seen on August 8, 2014.
In a press conference Thursday, DDCom’s president Fareesha Abdulla said the commission’s investigation uncovered Rilwan was abducted from outside his apartment in Hulhumale’ on early August 8, 2014, forced into a car, and then into a dinghy and into a fishing boat, after which he was beheaded and thrown overboard.
“We believe he was transported out to the open sea after which he was read the Shahada. An informant told us he was beheaded and his body was sunk into the ocean,” she said.
The six suspects who fled to Syria are:
According to Fareesha, Munaz left for Syria in 2017, while the other five left for Syria before that, in December 2014.
She said that while all six are presumed dead, there is no way for deaths can be confirmed through official channels.
Of the six, Hamid and Suaid were caught on CCTV tracking Rilwan’s movements in Male’, before he left for Hulhumale’.
According to Fareesha, Rilwan went to watch the final match of the Baibalaa tournament with his friends at the Artificial Beach in Male’ before going back to Hulhumale’. She said that Hamid and Suaid were found to have been following Rilwan even before the match, when he went to the Breakwater restaurant.
Fareesha said Rilwan’s murder was preplanned, and involved both extremist and gang elements.
Fareesha said Rilwan had received multiple threats prior to his death, and he even tweeted and told his friends and others that he was being followed and spied on by Ismail Abdul Raheem (Isu) – who was arrested in connection to the case in June.
According to Fareesha, Rilwan is believed to have been abducted at around 01:45 am August 8, 2014.
She said that Rilwan’s DNA was found from the red car he was forced into – owned by Alif Rauf, one of the people the commission believes to have been actively involved in Rilwan’s murder.
Fareesha said that top government officials had been involved in the coverup of the crime; including spreading false rumors Rilwan went to Syria, fled overseas, or committed suicide.
There is no evidence to support any of these rumors, she said.
Fareesha said that records show a request to have a copy of Rilwan’s passport made.
“We looked into whether Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla could have disappeared on his own accord or whether he could be held captive. We looked into all these possibilities. We found no evidence of that. We could not find any reason why Rilwan would kill himself either,” she said.
The state had pressed terror charges against three people in connection to the case; Suaid, Alif Rauf, H. Hilton, K. Male’, and Mohamed Noorddeen, Karankaage, GDh. Vaadhoo.
However, Suaid had already left the country, and the court therefore held trials for Alif and Noorddeen, both of whom were acquitted in 2017.
Justice for Rilwan, and blogger Yameen Rasheed, who was stabbed to death in the stairwell of his residence in Male’ City on April 23, 2017, had been one of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s electoral pledges. While Yameen Rasheed’s murder produced two convictions in January, there have been zero convictions in Rilwan’s case.
Police arrested and charged three additional suspects in connection to the two cases. They are:
Isu was pressed with two counts of aiding in the commission of an act of terrorism. According to the PGO, he was pressed with the charges for stalking Rilwan and aiding in his kidnapping and murder, and stalking Yameen Rasheed and aiding in his murder.
Buru Ahandhu was charged with conspiracy to carry out act of terrorism. According to PGO, he was pressed with the charge because he planned Rilwan’s murder, and had others murder him in accordance with the plan he made with his co-conspirators.
Meanwhile, Gut Mua was charged with conspiracy to carry out an act of terrorism in connection to both Rilwan and Yameen Rasheed’s murders.