August 8, 2017 marked three years since Maldives Independent’s journalist and human rights activist Ahmed Rilwan was forcibly disappeared.
The journalist was last seen on CCTV footage on August 8 at the Hulhumale ferry terminal in capital Male. His neighbours in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale had reported seeing him getting into a red car with another man under “suspicious” circumstances later that night.
That was the last reported sighting of Rilwan, and since then no official reports of what had happened to him or might have happened to him have been released. A missing persons report was filed at the police immediately after the incident occurred; however, it remains unclear what happened to him.
Since Rilwan’s disappearance, his family, friends and well-wishers have adamantly been demanding justice for the missing journalist. Several marches have been held, urging authorities to hasten their investigation.
On the anniversary of Rilwan’s disappearance on Tuesday, a peaceful march was held that initiated from the point where he was last seen – the Hulhumale’ ferry terminal in Male’.
The march continued on peacefully until they reached the vicinity of the Prosecutor General’s Office where Police had barricaded the path. The police began diffusing the crowd by confiscating the placards, pepper spraying protesters and using excessive force.
Nine people, including two parliamentarians – Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahloof and Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim – were arrested from the scene.
However, they were released four hours later.
Later the police announced via a tweet that the march was diffused because the crowds were violating the freedom of assembly act.
Lawyer Hisaan’s verdict
Prominent lawyer Hisaan Hussain said that the police shrugging off disappeared journalist Rilwan’s case and simply saying that they “do not know” what happened him is “unacceptable.”
Speaking at a forum held at Salt Café’s conference hall on Tuesday night in remembrance of the Maldives Independent journalist, Hisaan said that they appealed to the police to release any information they had about Rilwan’s disappearance to his family, without publicizing it on the media because it was an on-going case.
However, she said that the Attorney General had told them that “the police still cannot figure out what happened to [Rilwan].”
“We can’t take their word for it. It is hard to believe that the entire police force would have no clue about what happened to him,” Hisaan said.
Rilwan’s family has already filed a case at the Civil Court seeking an injunction to release all information the police have regarding Rilwan’s disappearance.
Hisaan said that they did not have any malicious intentions for filing the injunction and that they did not want to point fingers or blame anyone; she said that they just wanted to give Rilwan’s family some closure.
According to Hisaan, the nature of the case also changes the longer it drags on. For instance, she said the case was initially filed as a missing persons case, and then after a year it became a kidnapping case. However, in a press conference that was held last month, Minister of Home Affairs Ahmed Azleen had referred to the incident as “Rilwan’s death”, Hisaan said.
She said that it is Rilwan’s family’s fundamental right to know what really happened to him.
Speaking about Rilwan’s character, Hisaan admitted that she had never interacted with him on a personal capacity; however, she said that she was aware of his outspoken nature and how he had a passion for voicing out injustices and topics people were usually hesitant to talk about.
She added that this should not be a reason to ostracise him and ignore his case.
A lot of Rilwan’s close friends and family had also taken part in this forum where they spoke about him.
The mother’s allegations
Speaking to journalists after the march was dismantled, Rilwan’s mother Aminath Esa made some strong allegations against the government. She alleged that the government was somehow behind his disappearance.
She urged the government to clarify whether her son was still alive or not.
“I want to know what happened to my son. Was he killed? Or did [the authorities] kidnap him and are keeping him alive somewhere?” Rilwan’s mother pleaded.
“Tell me what happened to my son. Where is Rilwan? The government must’ve kidnapped him – they must’ve played a hand in this. I can’t say anything more than this – I don’t care if I get prosecuted for this,” she said woefully.
Further, she said that she had met with the former home minister Umar Naseer, the jailed ex Vice President Abdullah Adheeb and several other officials of the government regarding her son’s disappearance – with the exception of President Yameen, but not for a lack of trying.
This was the first time the missing journalist’s family had openly made such a strong allegation against the government about Rilwan’s disappearance.
She still maintains that her son would not run away or leave without saying goodbye.
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Source URL: Mihaaru-News