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Family members of Maldivian journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla are seen in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on August 28, 2018. A presidential commission in the Maldives recently announced that the journalist was killed in 2014. (Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte)

Maldives journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla killed by Al-Qaeda group in 2014, commission finds

September 3, 2019 1:25 PM ET

New Delhi, September 3, 2019 -- Maldivian authorities should prosecute those responsible for the 2014 killing of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, including the planners of the attack as well as any government officials who interfered in the investigation, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On September 1, Husnu Al Suood, the head of the presidential commission on enforced disappearances and murders, told reporters that Rilwan, a reporter for the independent news website Minivan News, had been killed by a local Al-Qaeda affiliate in 2014, according to news reports.

Rilwan had been missing since August 7, 2014, according to CPJ research. The commission found that members of the extremist group executed Rilwan on a ship on August 8 for his writing about alleged Al-Qaeda links in the Maldives and his advocacy for freedom of expression, according to those reports.

“We are deeply saddened by news of Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla's murder and, while we are encouraged by the progress in the investigations, five years is far too long to await justice,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “We urge Maldivian authorities to see this through and swiftly prosecute all those involved in Rilwan’s killing, including those who organized and financed it as well as authorities who were complicit or negligent.”

The commission identified several individuals suspected of involvement in Rilwan’s abduction, killing, and subsequent government interference in the case, according to a report by Rilwan’s employer, which has since changed its name to The Maldives Independent. Suood’s press conference was the first public acknowledgement of the presence of terrorist-affiliated groups in the Maldives, according to that report.

The commission asked the prosecutor general’s office to appeal the 2018 acquittals of two suspects charged over the abduction, given the new evidence, according to the Independent.

Suood also recommended obstruction of justice charges be filed against former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb for allegedly intervening to release two suspects involved in Rilwan’s disappearance, and also said the commission found evidence that former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom tried to “divert the focus of the police investigation,” but said there was not enough evidence to recommend charges, the Independent reported.

Yameen’s lawyer dismissed allegations of undue interference, and Adeeb has previously denied any involvement in Rilwan’s case, according to Al Jazeera.

Earlier this year, Suood told CPJ during a mission to the Maldives that Rilwan’s killing was masterminded by the same group behind the 2017 killing of Yameen Rasheed, a journalist who led a campaign seeking information on Rilwan’s disappearance.

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