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Colombo assures Berne that embassy staffer’s rights will be protected

Sri Lanka’s Minister for Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena is giving assurances that the rights of the detained local staffer of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo would be protected, a press release issued by his Ministry said last night.

Gunewardene told his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis in a phone conversation yesterday Dec 19, that the Sri Lankan employee Garnier Banister Francis is in custody on suspicion “that could justify a criminal charge of disaffection towards the government, and fabricating false evidence for the purpose of being used in any stage of a judicial proceeding, in her alleged abduction claim.”

Gunewardene, according to the release, “emphasized that Sri Lanka has fully complied with national law and international judicial standards and that any assertion to the contrary was factually inaccurate. “

He was referring to the statement issued by the Swiss government on Tuesday, December 17 in which Berne expressed concern at the arrest of their Embassy staffer by police and called for due process to be followed, warning that “in this high-profile case Sri Lanka’s reputation as a country that upholds the rule of law is at stake.”

The Swiss statement, in turn, had criticized the Sri Lankan government for making public statements “questioning her (Francis’s) account before the investigations had been completed.”

“The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has repeatedly called for due process to be followed. In particular, the FDFA has criticized the 30-hour interrogation to which the employee was subjected over three days despite being in poor health” the statement added.

Gunawardena, according to last night’s statement had “detailed the steps taken from the time the incident was first reported, through the presentation of Ms. Francis by the Swiss Embassy to the CID 13 days since the alleged incident, to the present, and emphasized that due process has been adhered to at each step, in keeping with international norms respected by both countries.”

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