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Police say officers “used necessary force” on autistic teenager and did not assault him

ALLEGED ASSAULT – CCTV footage shows Policemen assaulting teenager

ECONOMYNEXT – The Police department is denying that its officers assaulted autistic teenager Thariq Ahamed at Dharga Town during curfew hours on May 25.

A Media release from Police headquarters said today officers used “necessary force to subdue the youth but did not assault him.”

The release also confirmed that the Acting Inspector General of Police Chandana Wickremaratne has ordered the Women and Children’s Bureau of the Police to conduct an independent inquiry into the matter.

A subsequent statement said that the three police officers concerned, a Sub-Inspector, Sargeant and Constable have been suspended from duty.  The SI and Seargeant are from the Police College and the Constable from the Aluthgama Police station.

Meanwhile, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) is yet to begin an investigation into the incident the NCPA Chairman Prof Muditha Vidanapathirana told EconomyNext.

“We have received many complaints and we have asked our cybercrimes unit to validate the video that is being circulated on social media,” he said.

“We have also alerted out Child Protection officer in the area to look into the matter. However until the local police finish their inquiry, we cannot begin an investigation,” he added.

In the narrative released by the Police Media spokesman, 16-year old Thariq rode his bicycle past the Police barrier during curfew hours without wearing a mask and ignored a signal to stop. Sometime later he came back and again ignored a sign to stop and then police grabbed the handlebar and stopped the bike.

“At that stage the bike hit a fishmonger’s table and the boy fell,” the statement said.

When police went up to him “he tried to run away shouting in a loud voice,” it went on.

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Then the officers on duty used “necessary force to subdue him.”

The CCTB footage shows Thariq being taken across the road and a struggle between the tall youth and several police officers taking place.

A passerby had informed police this boy was “mentally deficient” and was a resident of Dharga town.

The boy’s father had then come to the scene and both of them had been taken to the police station, the statement said. A statement had been recorded from the father and the boy taken for examination by the Judicial Medical Officer at the Nagoda hospital.

The police statement said that the officers had “not recognized that this youth was mentally deficient. They believed he was a drug addict.”

The boy was released to his father and no legal actions is being taken against him, the press release said.

Thariq, according to his father is autistic which is a developmental disorder, and not a mental illness.

CCTV footage of the incident went viral on June 4, after a local MP Ali Zuhair Mowlana tweeted calling for justice for Thariq.

Twitterati citing the incidents in the United States commented that all those Sri Lankans calling for justice for George Floyd should also call for justice for Thariq.

All day on June 4 #JusticeForThariq was the number one trending hashtag on Twitter in Sri Lanka. (Colombo, June 5, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana