Public Security Minister lays out accusations against detained lawyer Hisbullah

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT- Lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah had spoken with the Easter Sunday attackers on three occasions by phone, Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Ret) Sarath Weerasekara alleged in Parliament this morning.

Replying to a question raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella about the lawyer who has been detained since April 2020, the minister charged that the investigations have revealed that Hisbullah’s wife who is an Egyptian national is connected to a terrorist organisation.

Further, he said that the leader of the Easter attack Zaharan Hashim has conducted lectures in the organisation maintained by Hisbullah named ‘Pearl of Unity’ which is was funded by an organisation called the Qatar Charity which Weerasekara claimed is banned by the United Nations.

According to its website the Qatar Charity was listed as a consultative body by the UN since 1996 and as an Associated Organization since 2019. It does joint operations with UN agencies including UNICEF in a number of countries.

The Qatar Charity was blacklisted by Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf nations after the Saudis severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017. The UN refused to ban the Charity despite Saudi and Egyptian pressure according to a Reuters report. Since then the Arab nations including Saudi Arabia have taken the Qatar Charity off the blacklist.

Weerasekara said that based on those findings he is being currently detained while further investigations are being conducted.

Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Harin Fernando also refuted these allegations stating that the Arab ban on the Qatar Charity was lifted after Qatar and the Saudis resumed diplomatic relations.

Hisbullah has not been charged in a court of law as yet and is expected to be produced in court tomorrow.

Hisbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on April 14, 2020, and placed under a detention order by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the Easter Sunday bombers and for engaging in activities deemed “detrimental to religious harmony among communities.”

The PTA permits the Sri Lankan government to detain a suspect without any charges for 18 months and Hisbullah’s detention order was renewed on October 14, 2020, and the listing of his case before a Magistrate on October 28, 2020, was postponed to February, reportedly due to the COVID-19 crisis.

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Last month, his lawyers filed a writ petition before the Court of Appeal seeking release from detention and access to their client.

The lawyers submitted and the court noted that Hisbullah did not have confidential access to his lawyers since September.

In the Petition, Hisbullah’s lawyers stated that they were given access to their client only four times and that the authorities were present on all occasions.

During the Appeal Court hearing on December 15, the Attorney General agreed to grant Hisbullah confidential access to counsel. (Colombo January 7, 2021)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe

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