Shakthika released on bail; fate may rest on AG Dept

After 130 days in remand custody, fiction writer Shakthika Sathkumara was released on bail by the Kurunegala High Court today (8).

He was granted a cash bail for Rs. 1000,000 and two sureties of Rs. 100,000 on Monday (5 Aug), but continued to remain in custody until his release today.

Wariyapola Police had demanded a letter from the chief incumbent of the Buddhist temple of Sathkumara’s hometown as well as letters from a lawyer and a Justice of the Peace (JP) in addition to a certificate of residence from the local Gramasevaka in order to secure his release.

Attorney-at-law C. W. W. Ratnayake of the legal team representing Sathkumara told RepublicNext the defence did not furnish nor obtain such documents.

“The letters were demanded purely with the intention of harassing [Sathkumara]. The police has no right to do that. A Gramasevaka’s certificate would’ve sufficed,” said Ratnayake.

The Wariyopola police had insisted on the documents, however.

“A lawyer wouldn’t give a letter just like that. Most wouldn’t even give it for money,” said the lawyer.

Ratnayake further said Sathkumara will either be summoned to the Polgahawela Magistrate Court if the case proceeds as a criminal offence case, or back to the Kurunegala High Court if it continues under provisions in the ICCPR Act.

The next course of action, said Rathnayake, will depend on the Attorney General’s Department. However, efforts are now underway to have the case withdrawn.

Sathkumara was arrested on 1 April under provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act for allegedly inciting inter-faith violence through a short story titled ‘Ardha’ about sexual abuse in rural Buddhist temples.

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His arrest came under widespread criticism as an attack on freedom of expression, with the ICCPR Act itself becoming a matter of controversy.

The short story in question, titled Ardha (meaning half, or fraction), reportedly alludes to child abuse allegedly prevalent in rural Buddhist temples. This drew the ire of a group named the Youth Front to Protect Buddhism who had, along with some Buddhist monks from the Polgahawela area, had lodged a complaint with the police against Sathkumara.

Section 3 (1) of the (ICCPR) Act, No. 56 of 2007, under which Sathukamara was arrested, states: “No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

Section 3 (4) goes on to say: “An offence under this section shall be cognizable and non-bailable, and no person suspected or accused of such an offence shall be enlarged on bail, except by the High Court in exceptional circumstances.”

The short story can be found at this link.

Sathkumara with his wife after his release today. Image courtesy JDSLanka.

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