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Thursday October 6th, 2022

Appeal court slams Sri Lanka police for framing top detective

ECONOMYNEXT – The Court of Appeal Wednesday slammed police for using “concocted stories” to incarcerate their own top detective Shani Abeysekara whose detention sparked a censure motion against Sri Lanka at the European parliament.

The two-judge bench in their 14-page judgement granting bail to Abeysekara noted a blatant attempt by the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) of the police to frame the former director of the CID.

Abeysekara was arrested on July 31, 2020 by the CCD which accused him of introducing weapons to implicate former Deputy Inspector-General Vass Gunawardena, the main suspect in the 2013 murder of businessman Mohamed Siyam.

The court found that the weapons Abeysekara had discovered during his investigation into the Siyam murder were indeed traced to Vass Gunawardena who in fact had admitted to some of it in his dock statement.

The CCD had relied on the statements of Gunawardena’s co-conspirators in the 2013 murder of Siyam, but their testimony could not be trusted, the court of appeal said.

“The allegations against the suspect Shani Abeysekara are a result of falsification and embellishment and a creature of after-thought,” justice Bandula Karunathna said with justice R. Gurusinghe agreeing.

They also noted that the witnesses against Abeysekara had waited six years to make the allegation against him.

“On account of the said unusual and extraordinary delay, the complaint has not only lost the benefit of the advantage of spontaneity, but also smacks of the introduction of a fabricated, false version and an exaggerated account or concocted story involving a set of collaborators or conspirators, to unduly cause prejudice and harm to the suspect Shani Abeysekara, for collateral purposes.

“Not only that the said delay has not been satisfactorily or credibly explained. It is crystal clear that the statements given by the said witnesses in 2020 are contradictory to statements given by them in 2014.”

-No semblance of a case-

The Court of Appeal pulverised the case against Abeysekara and the judgement could form the basis of an internal investigation into the conduct of the CCD, according to rights activists.

The Court of Appeal judgement also indirectly criticised lower courts.

The judgement noted that “no credible evidence had been brought to the attention of Court to substantiate this position (against Abeysekara) or credibly establish a semblance of a prima facie case against” him.

The European parliament last week passed a censure motion against Sri Lanka and singled out the cases of Abeysekara and two others – human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah and poet Ahnaf Jazeem – who were being held for long periods without trail.

The EU resolution urged the “government of Sri Lanka to immediately give those detained a fair trial on valid charges and, if there are no charges, to release them unconditionally.”

Abeysekara has been the top detective in many successful prosecutions and was also the top investigator of members of the Rajapaksa family.

-Prolonged incarceration due to fault of lower courts-

The Court of Appeal judgement also made scathing remarks about lower courts for not granting bail and forcing suspects to languish in jail for long periods without trial.

The judges noted that the power to grant bail was exercised sparingly by lower courts and poorer people suffered.

“Sometimes courts even routinely reject bail for minor offences.

“It is pertinent to note that a majority of those belong to marginalised communities. Without grant of bail by the lower courts, the accused persons are required to approach the High Court, Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. Consequently, most accused persons remain incarcerated as under-trials for extended periods of time.”

The two judges said there was no valid reason to keep Abeysekara in custody for any longer and granted him bail. He had languished in remand custody for 10 months during which he contracted Covid-19 and suffered a heart attack and was forced to undergo surgery.

(COLOMBO, June 16, 2021)

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