Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s lawyers said Thursday they are preparing to sue Disappearances and Deaths Commission (DDCom) member Misbah Abbas for defamation, following remarks he made linking him to the 2014 abduction and disappearance of a journalist.
Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, 28, a journalist who worked for Minivan News (later renamed Maldives Independent), was last seen on August 8, 2014. According to DDCom, their investigation uncovered Rilwan was abducted from outside his apartment in Hulhumale’, forced into a car, and then into a dinghy and into a fishing boat, after which he was beheaded and thrown overboard.
His body was never recovered.
In a press conference Thursday evening, DDCom member Misbah Abbas said the commission’s investigation uncovered Mohamed Munaz, Th. Omadhoo, one of the suspects in the case, left Maldives for Syria in 2017 with assistance from then-President Yameen.
Misbah said that Munaz had met with Yameen before he left, and told him details about Rilwan’s murder.
“The commission has been informed one of the suspects in the case – Mohamed Munaz of Th. Omadhoo – met with then-President and told him, without implicating himself, how Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla was forced into a car and killed, and the people involved, and how they did it. The investigation also established he traveled to Syria with assistance from the then-President,” he said.
According to Misbah, the commission’s informant was someone who had been close to Munaz, and someone who Munaz had tried to recruit to join the fighting in Syria, after he left for the war zone.
Yameen’s lawyers issued a statement shortly after the press conference, calling Misbah’s remarks “baseless”.
“Misbah Abbas’ remarks itself show that what he said is based on mere hearsay that lack any factual basis,” said the lawyers in the statement.
The lawyers described it as a political stunt to discredit Yameen ahead of the 2023 presidential elections.
“We hereby inform that given Misbah Abbas’ baseless allegations to discredit our client, we are preparing a lawsuit to sue him for libel and that we will take all legal action necessary without delay,” said the lawyers.
When questioned by reporters regarding the allegations against Yameen, Misbah recalled how Yameen had said with certainty that Rilwan was dead during the 2018 presidential campaign.
He said the commission had been informed of Munaz’s meeting with Yameen through more than one source.
Also at the press conference, DDCom’s president Fareesha Abdulla said the commission had established links between top state officials at the time and criminal gangs. She said that starting 2014, the government had cleared the criminal records of many people under the pretense of facilitating greater employment opportunities for the youth, and they were appointed to jobs within the government and at state-owned enterprises without rehabilitation.
“We have established that the then-president used state resources and other ways to fund criminal gangs, and that the funds were given under the pretense of supporting sports clubs and various youth-centric initiatives,” she said.
Justice for Rilwan had been one of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s electoral pledges – the failure to deliver which is heavily criticized.