Sri Lankaâ€™s top military officer gets conditional bail
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s highest-ranking military officer, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, was granted bail Wednesday under strict conditions that he will not interfere with witnesses and investigator probing his cover up war-time murders of 11 young men.
Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake freed the admiral on two sureties of one million each. He was warned not to interfere with witnesses or use his official position to intimidate investors.
Wijegunaratne was brought to the magistrate’s court in a prison bus where he spent nearly four hours till his case was called in the afternoon.
Last week, he was remand in custody for a week pending investigations into the abduction and murder of young men between 2008 and 2009.
He was denied bail at the time after the Criminal Investigation Department reported that he had attempted to abduct a key witness over the weekend and also tried to get lead investigator Inspector Nishantha Silva removed from the case.
On Wednesday, the court ordered that an intimidation case be transferred out of the Colombo Fort police because they showed very poor progress in their investigations.
Police detectives have told court that Wijegunaratne shielded a naval intelligence officer accused of 11 murders in the closing stages of Sri Lanka’s bloody separatist war that ended in May 2009.
Pprosecutors also told the court last week that Wijegunaratne and his bodyguards tried to abduct a key witness, another navy officer Lt. Commander Laksiri Galagamage, who had previously testified against him.
Investigators say Wijegunaratne helped Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, a navy intelligence officer and chief suspect in the murders, escape arrest. Hettiarachchi, who is separately accused of involvement in the 2006 murder of a Tamil legislator, was captured in August.
Police believe the 11 victims were murdered while in the illegal custody of the navy. Their bodies were never found. The victims belonged to all three main communities in Sri Lanka.
Military figures were accused of abductions and extrajudicial killings during the 37-year war against the Tamil Tiger separatist movement.
Several intelligence officers are facing prosecution over the murder of journalists critical of Mahinda Rajapakse, the former president whose tenure was marred by allegations of war crimes and grave rights abuses. (COLOMBO, December 5, 2018)