Sri Lanka’s hard-line Buddhist monk sentenced to six years in jail
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s firebrand Buddhist monk Galagodaatte Gnanasara was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday by the Court of Appeal which found him guilty on four counts of contempt of court.
The Court of Appeal found the monk’s behaviour at the Homagama Magistrate’s court in January 2016 to be disruptive and disrespectful to the judiciary. For the first two counts, he was give four years each, six years for the third count and five years for the fourth count. The total of 19 years to run concurrently which means he will have to spend a maximum of six years in jail.
The monk’s Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) said they have already lodged an appeal which will be taken up on August 29.
"We have filed an appeal," Withanage said adding that the monk was not in court hear the verdict. He had been admitted to the Jayewardenepura hospital with a kidney ailment.
In a separate case, the magistrate’s court in Homagama had sentenced Gnanasara in June to six months in prison for intimidating Sandya Eknaligoda in January 2016.
The magistrate had filed a separate complaint in the Court of Appeal against Gnanasara for his threatening behaviour inside the court house. He is on bail in respect of the earlier conviction. He spent a week in jail and was released on bail only to be ordered back to jail following the latest conviction.
He was put behind bars for the first time in June although he has faced several previous cases on charges of hate crimes against minority Muslims in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka.
Gnanasara was at the magistrate’s court in January 2016 support military officers accused of abducting Prageeth Eknaligoda, whose cartoons lampooned former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.
He accused Eknaligoda and her husband of supporting Tamil extremists and bringing the military into disrepute. The campaign for whereabouts of her husband earned Eknaligoda an "International Women of Courage" award last year from US First Lady Melania Trump.
Last year, Gnanasara spent a month on the run as police pursued him in connection with a string of attacks against Muslims. He later surrendered and was granted bail.
His Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or Buddhist Force, has denied allegations it was behind riots against Muslims in 2017 and 2014 that left four people dead.
Gnanasara maintains close ties with Wirathu, an extremist monk based in Myanmar, whose hate speech has stoked religious tensions in that country.
Wirathu visited Sri Lanka as a guest of Gnanasara shortly after the 2014 violence in Sri Lanka’s tourist resort of Aluthgama. (COLOMBO, August 8, 2018)