Concerns grow over the absence of convictions in cases of abducted journalist Ahmed Rilwan and murdered blogger Yameen Rasheed.

Ahmed Ismail, widely known as ‘Buru Ahandhu,’ aged 39, was cleared of terrorism charges related to the 2014 disappearance and presumed murder of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla and the 2017 murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed by the Criminal Court in Malé on Thursday. These cases have drawn substantial public attention and sparked debates about the efficacy of law enforcement and the justice system in prosecuting high-profile crimes.

Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, a journalist aged 28 who was associated with Minivan News (now Maldives Independent), disappeared under mysterious circumstances on 8 August 2014. It is widely believed that he was abducted and subsequently murdered. Yameen Rasheed, a renowned blogger and human rights activist aged 29, was found fatally stabbed in the stairwell of his residence in Malé City in 2017.

In connection with these high-profile cases, Ismail was among three individuals apprehended on 26 June 2022. The other two suspects are Ahmed Muaz, also known as ‘Gut Mua,’ aged 40, and Ismail Abdul Raheem, or ‘Isu,’ aged 30. The trio was indicted in August 2022 by the Prosecutor General’s Office on terror charges.

Ismail’s trial was conducted privately, eliciting criticism from rights groups and the public. He was initially held in custody but was granted conditional release nearly a year later, on 23 June 2023. The Criminal Court’s judgement cited insufficient evidence to establish that Ismail actively participated in the crimes under a specific plan and intended to aid.

Abdul Raheem, Ismail’s co-accused, also received a conditional release recently. His passport has been confiscated, and authorities are using an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements. He is further restricted from leaving his residence unless necessary and is prohibited from contacting witnesses in the cases.

It is not the first time suspects in these cases have been cleared. In Rilwan’s case, Alif Rauf and Mohamed Noordeen were previously charged but later cleared. Six suspects were put on trial for Yameen Rasheed’s murder. Only Ismail Haisham Rasheed and Ahmed Zihan Ismail were found guilty and received life sentences.

The Presidential Commission on Deaths and Disappearances suspended its investigations during the trials but has since resumed them. However, the recent clearances raise further questions about the effectiveness of the Maldivian criminal justice system in addressing such serious crimes.

These clearances have led to an outcry from the public and various human rights organisations, questioning the credibility and transparency of the justice system. The unsolved cases continue to cast a shadow over Maldivian society.