Sri Lanka Chief Justice grilled over coup claims

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s chief justice was questioned by criminal investigators Friday following allegations that he tried to help the former president Mahinda Rajapakse retain power illegally, a minister said.

Chief Justice Mohan Peiris was interviewed over a complaint that he and the former president allegedly conspired to keep the strongman in power in a meeting at Rajapakse’s home, Public Security minister John Amaratunga said.

"The chief justice was questioned today about the (alleged) coup and a statement has been recorded," the minister told reporters in Colombo. He added that investigations were proceeding.

The questioning came after the chief justice was banned from a meeting of Asian legal experts in Colombo Monday when Sri Lanka’s bar association threatened a boycott if he was allowed to participate.

Police have opened a criminal investigation into claims that the defeated strongman Rajapakse tried to use military force to stay in power as early results of the January 8 election showed he was headed for defeat.

There has been no public comment from the chief justice who had been seen in the company of Rajapakse and is accused of trying to legitimise a state of emergency after causing unrest at vote counting centres.

Rajapakse had appointed Peiris after impeaching the previous chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake in January 2013 when her rulings went against his administration.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who was sworn in on January 9, has vowed to restore Bandaranayake to the role.

Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera has lodged a formal complaint that Rajapakse tried to use military force to stay in power.





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