Police Crackdown on March for Disappeared Journalist

9 August 2017, Male: Tuesday marked 3 years since the abduction of journalist Rilwan Abdulla. MDP strongly condemns brutal and disproportionate crackdown from the Police on the march, led by his mother, family and friends.

The Police obstructed the path of the demonstrators; heavily pepper- sprayed the crowd and snatched placards from the demonstrators. The Police also specifically targeted Rilwan’s mother and pepper- sprayed her.

The demonstrators chanted “where is Rilwan,” and held placards asking why all the suspects were allowed to flee, as well as many other unanswered questions.

While all the suspects were allowed to leave the country, for two years, the authorities systematically denied any conclusive findings from the investigation, and refuted any connection between Rilwan’s disappearance and an abduction reported by his neighbours, saying they saw a man being forced into a red car at knifepoint.

However, in glaring reversal, in April 2016, the Police announced that Rilwan was abducted by a well-known gangster, and admitted to a DNA match between Rilwan and the blood found in the gangster’s car. By then, the suspects had fled, reportedly as Jihadis to Syria.

Rilwan’s mother has accused the Government’s implicit involvement in the abduction, and the family has filed a lawsuit, accusing the Police of withholding information and seeking “available facts of the events.” The court has not ruled on government’s request for closed hearings on the case.

Last week, the Minister of Home Affairs, at a press conference referred to the “death of Rilwan.” However, the family has never been informed of a certain death. The Minister has refused to clarify his comments. President Abdulla Yameen had callously shrugged off journalists’ questions about the abduction, and has refused to comment since then. An investigative documentary by Al Jazeera, Stealing Paradise had revealed damning links between Government officials and the kidnapping of the 28 year old. The exposé also showed evidence of President Yameen’s efforts to undermine the investigation into the abduction of Rilwan.

In April 2017, another young, liberal writer, Yameen Rasheed was stabbed to death at his doorstep. The Police have not disclosed a motive for Rilwan’s abduction or Yameen’s murder, and refused to comment on links to extremist religious groups in the country. Yameen Rasheed had reported threats from extremism for 3 years, without any action from the Police.

The last few weeks have seen a spate of brutal stabbings and 2 murders, in the capital, Male. Murders and violent crimes are on the rise in the Maldives and some are clearly unrelated to gang violence. However, the police refuses to establish motives for these violent crimes and refuses to comment on radicalisation in the Maldives.

Over the last week, the Government, and President Yameen have stepped up rhetoric on death penalty. Both the Home Minister and the President have reiterated their commitment to end the Maldives’ 60 years old moratorium on the death penalty, with the President saying he has the “guts” to implement it very soon.