Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, a blogger and reporter for independent news website Minivan News, was killed by a local Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Maldives on August 8, 2014, Husnu Al Suood, the head of the presidential commission on enforced disappearances and murders, said on September 1, 2019, according to Al-Jazeera. Rilwan was last seen on August 7, 2014, according to news reports and CPJ reporting, and had been considered missing for five years.

Rilwan was forced into a car outside of his home at knifepoint in the early hours of August 8, 2014, according to the same reports. Al Suuod said he was then taken to a boat out at sea, where he was killed, according to Al-Jazeera.

Al Suood said that Rilwan had been killed for his writing about alleged Al-Qaeda links in the Maldives and his advocacy for freedom of expression, according to news reports.

Rilwan had received several threats from criminal gangs and radical groups prior to his disappearance and murder, according to a report by the Presidential Commission on Death and Disappearances, and a report by the Maldives Democracy Network nongovernmental group.

The commission identified several individuals suspected of involvement in Rilwan’s abduction and 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. 

Two suspects were charged with killing Abdulla in 2018, but were acquitted, according to CPJ documentation. The commission asked the prosecutor general’s office to appeal the 2018 acquittals of two suspects charged over Rilwan’s abduction, given the new evidence, according to CPJ documentation.

Al Suood also recommended obstruction of justice charges be filed against former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb for allegedly intervening to release two suspects allegedly 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 added that 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.

On June 25, 2022, Maldives police arrested three men—Ahmed Ismail, Ahmed Muaz, and Ismail Abdul Raheem—in connection with Abdulla’s abduction and murder, as well as the 2017 murder of blogger and satirist Yameen Rasheed, following new leads from the investigation of the Presidential Commission on Death and Disappearances, according to news reports, and Aisha Rasheed, Rasheed’s sister, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

The three suspects were accused of involvement in acts of terrorism by planning and executing crimes linked to the two cases, according to those sources. A previous commission report said that Raheem had stalked Rilwan prior to his disappearance, according to news reports.

A criminal court ordered that the three be detained until the conclusion of their trials, according to The Edition and Aisha Rasheed. CPJ could not identify public statements by the three suspects or contact information for their lawyers.

Fathimath Shehenaz, Rilwan’s sister, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.

When reached via messaging app, Maldives police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed declined to comment and referred CPJ to the Presidential Commission on Death and Disappearances.

Misbah Abbas, a member of that commission, told CPJ by phone that Ismail, Muaz, and Raheem’s cases had been referred to the prosecutor general’s office, which planned to file criminal charges in August 2022.