The Criminal Court has dismissed the charges against Ismail Abdul Raheem and Ahmed Muaz in connection with the murders of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla and blogger Yameen Rasheed.

The court found the evidence insufficient for trial. Both individuals, previously under house arrest with electronic tags, have now been released.

The pre-trial hearings were conducted behind closed doors.

Ahmed Ismail, charged with various counts of terrorism in conjunction with the same case, similarly saw his charges dismissed earlier.

Rilwan, a journalist working for ‘Minivan’ News (now Maldives Independent) who disappeared under mysterious circumstances on 7 August 2014, is believed to have been abducted and killed by homegrown extremists belonging to the terror groups ISIS and al-Qaeda, the Commission on Deaths and Disappearances (DDCom) had said during a press conference in September 2019.

“Rilwan was targeted by extremists operating in the capital Malé, who monitored his movements, eventually locating him in the suburb of Hulhumalé, where he lived,” DDCom said based on its investigation. “Subsequently, he was forced into a red car near his apartment building and transported onto a fishing boat on which he was decapitated even as he was reciting and invoking the Shahadah, and his body was then disposed of at sea.”

The initial investigation into Rilwan’s abduction had led to the arrests of Alif Rauf, Mohamed Nooradheen, and Mohamed Suaid on charges of terrorism. Rauf and Nooradheen were later released. Suaid was rumoured to have fled abroad and later reported to have died in Syria. Although the circumstances of his death have not been officially confirmed, his family informed the Criminal Court that he had died.

Yameen was killed on 23 April 2017 as he was advocating for justice in the case of his friend Rilwan.

Haisham Rasheed, Ahmed Zihan Ismail, Mohamed Difran, Hassan Shifaz, Ismail Rasheed and Hussain Ziad were put on trial for Yameen’s murder. Only Ismail Haisham Rasheed and Ahmed Zihan Ismail were found guilty and received life sentences, while Ismail Rasheed, Mohamed Difran, Hassan Shifaz and Hussain Ziad were acquitted. However, the state prosecutors chose to appeal the verdicts handed to Ismail Rasheed and Mohamed Difran.

Additional reporting by Andrew Richards and Ibrahim Inaan