Arrest warrants suspended pending CA final determination
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Following Wednesday’s Court of Appeal order, suspending the arrest warrant on him, Kurunegala Mayor Thushara Sanjeewa was seen with the newly appointed Highways Minister Johnston Fernando on Thursday (13).
Thushara was present when Minister Fernando launched a new project to rehabilitate the Wajuragnana road in Kurunagala.
Addressing the gathering Minister Fernando explained why he had defended the Mayor although interested parties misinterpreted his comments. The Minister reiterated that he would neither protect wrongdoers nor allow innocents to be targeted.
The Mayor, too, in his welcome speech explained the challenges faced by him in the run-up to the general election.
Thushara filed a writ petition on August 11 after Kurunegala Magistrate re-issued warrants after the police failed to execute original arrest orders issued on August 6.
The August 12 order was delivered by a Court of Appeal bench consisting of its President Justice A.H.M.D. Nawaz and Justice Sobhitha Rajakaruna.
The warrants were suspended pending Court of Appeal determination as regards Kurunegala Mayor’s writ petition to be delivered on August 24.
Kurunegala Magistrate Court also imposed a travel ban preventing the suspects from leaving the country. The five suspects are Kurunegala Mayor Sanjeeva Thushara Vitharana, Municipal Commissioner Pradeep Nishantha Thilakaratne, Municipal Engineer Chaminda Bandara Adhikari and two other officials, Illaludeen Sulfica and Lakshman Priyantha.
Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, intervened in the wake of heavy reportage of the demolition of a part of an archaeological construction considered the royal pavilion of King Bhuvanaikabahu II. The incident took place over two weeks before the Aug 5 parliamentary election.
Acting IGP C.D. Wickramaratne was directed to make the arrests on charges under Antiquities Ordinance & the Public Property Act.
At a recent media conference called by the Attorney General, Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris and Additional Solicitor General Sumathi Dharmawardena explained the failure on the part of the police to execute arrest warrants issued in respect of the fugitives. Focusing on the police inaction, DSG Peiris questioned how fugitive Superintendent of Negombo prison Anuruddha Sampayo visited Hulftsdorp to sign a court document while the police were looking for him.
The DSG went to the extent of suggesting relevant authorities would seek the assistance of the armed forces to execute arrest warrants in the face of police failure to do so.
A committee appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, having inquired into the Kurunegala incident recommended legal action against all those responsible for the demolition, and the cost of restoration of the site be charged from the individuals and institutions responsible for it. Altogether, the Committee headed by Director-General of Archeology Professor Senarath Dissanayake, included District Secretary R. M. J. Ratnayake, Archaeologist T. G. Kulatunga, Deputy Director of Archeology at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs Archaeologist Prasad Ranasinghe and Director of the Central Cultural Fund Architect Sumedha Matota.
Ex-Defence Secy claims he was never shown Military Intelligence reports
Easter Sunday probe:
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Tuesday, claimed, before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), investigating the Easter Sunday attacks, that he had never seen intelligence reports sent by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) to the Defence Ministry, regarding National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim and his extremist activities.
Fernando said so when the Commissioners drew Fernando’s attention to several intelligence reports shared by the DMI, between January and April 21, 2019, with the Defence Ministry. After going through the reports, the former Defence Secretary said that he had never seen them before.
“Former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis didn’t inform me of the reports shared by DMI. I see that these reports contained information that I could have used to take certain preventive measures.”
When shown a DMI report, presented at an Intelligence Review Meeting (IRM), stating that Zahran may have fled to India in March, 2019, the witness said he had never seen the document, but he was aware that the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had rejected that DMI report.
“The SIS believed that Zahran was in the country by March 2019. This tallied with CID’s opinions.”
The witness added that he had been displeased with officials, including former CNI, for not sharing DMI intelligence reports with him.
Fernando added that, according to the Constitution, the President had to appoint an acting Defence Minister when he travelled overseas.
“However, former President Maithripala Sirisena didn’t appoint anyone as the acting Defence Minister when he left the country on April 16, 2019,” Fernando said.
Fernando said he had contacted former Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Nilantha Jayawardena on several occasions after the motorcycle bomb explosion at Kattankudy on 16 April, 2019, but the latter had never informed him that it was the work of Zahran Hashim and his associates.
Answering a question posed by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG,) who led the evidence about the incident, Fernando added that although SDIG Jayawardena had sent him some photos related to the incident through WhatsApp, they were not clear.
The witness was also asked about the detection of a stock of explosives at the Jihadist training camp in Wanathawilluwa on 16 January, 2019.
Fernando said he had been informed of the detection, but he did not think those explosives could be used for a terrorist attack.
A commissioner asked the witness if he had been able to assess the damage that could be caused by the explosives. Fernando he had no expertise in the subject.
India: All 32 accused in Babri Mosque demolition case acquitted
BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, September 30:
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh state on Wednesday acquitted all 32 accused in the Babri Mosque demolition case almost 28 years after a mob razed the 16th century structure in Ayodhya.
The accused faced charges like criminal conspiracy, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups, and unlawful assembly.
The demolition triggered some of the deadliest riots since the partition riots in 1947 that left about 2,000 dead. The acquitted included veteran Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Lal Krishna Advani (92), and Murli Manohar Joshi (86).
CBI Judge Surendra Kumar Yadav ordered the acquittal by citing a lack of evidence. He said the probe agency could not prove the authenticity of the audio and video evidence submitted. He said the demolition was not pre-planned and the accused tried to stop “anti-social” elements who razed the mosque.
Former Union minister Uma Bharti, and Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister at the time of the demolition, are among other accused acquitted in the case. They have tested positive for Covid-19 and are hospitalised, and could not attend the court proceedings on Wednesday. Singh’s government was dismissed over the demolition.
Sadhvi Rithambhara, Lallu Singh, Pawan Pandey, Vinay Katiyar, and Champat Rai were among the accused present in the CBI court.
The verdict came months after the Supreme Court in November 2019 ruled in favour of building a temple at the 2.77-acre site in Ayodhya, where the mosque once stood. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended a ceremony to mark the beginning of the temple construction in August.
Security was heightened on the court premises. No one except the defence, CBI lawyers, and the accused were allowed inside the courtroom. Entry was permitted through only one gate and barricades were put on nearby roads to restrict traffic.
Supporters of the accused were stopped at the barricades as they started arriving at the court. Journalists were denied access to the court building, and most of the shops in the vicinity remained closed.
The CBI took over the demolition case a week after the mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992. Two simultaneous criminal trials in Lucknow and Rae Bareli were conducted until the Supreme Court shifted all cases to Lucknow in 2017. The top court in July last year extended the timeframe for completing the criminal trial by six months and also set a deadline of nine months for the final order.
The nine-month deadline expired on April 19. The Supreme Court on May 8 set the new deadline of August 31 for the judgment. In August, it again extended the deadline till September 30.
CBI produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence during the course of the trial and the special court framed charges against 49 accused. Seventeen of the accused died during the course of the trial.
Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani welcomed the judgement by the special CBI court which acquitted him and 31 other accused in the Babri mosque demolition case.
“I wholeheartedly welcome the judgement. The judgement vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi movement,” Advani said after the verdict by the court in Lucknow.
He, along with another accused Murli Manohar Joshi, participated in the proceedings through video conferencing. “It’s a historic decision by the court. This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the December 6 incident in Ayodhya. Our programme and rallies were not part of any conspiracy. We are happy, everyone should now be excited about Ram Mandir’s construction,” said Joshi.
The CBI, which went into the case, produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 16 had died during the course of the trial. Over two dozen of 32 accused were present
The verdict given by the special CBI court in the Babri demolition case has been hailed by many political leaders and Union ministers. Defence minister Rajnath Singh took the lead in congratulating the 32 who were acquitted.
However, the opposition Congress Party said the verdict runs counter to the 2019 Supreme Court judgment as also the “Constitutional spirit”. The party asked the Central and Uttar Pradesh governments to file an appeal against the decision of the special court.
“Every Indian, who has innate faith in the Constitution as also in the spirit of communal amity and brotherhood, expects and urges the Central and State Governments to file an appeal against the decision of the Special Court founded in error and follow the letter of the law and the Constitution, without any partiality and pre-meditated prejudice. This is the true calling of rule of law and our Constitution,” he added.
Amnesty International to cease work in India, citing government harassment
NEW DELHI —
Amnesty International said Tuesday (29) that it would halt operations in India after its bank accounts were frozen and its executives interrogated by financial authorities, the latest steps in what the human rights group called a two-year campaign of harassment, the Washington Post report posted on Sept 29.
Washington Post report: The announcement reflects the diminishing space for dissent in the world’s largest democracy, where critics of government policies increasingly face probes by authorities or even arrest.
The government is “treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence,” Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement. Its goal is to “stoke a climate of fear.”
Amnesty said it would lay off more than 100 staff members and cease its human rights campaigns in India.
Its recent work included reports alleging police complicity in deadly interreligious riots in Delhi earlier this year and an investigation into India’s crackdown in the restive Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Tuesday’s announcement puts India in the same category as authoritarian regimes such as Russia, the only other country where Amnesty International previously ceased operations when it shuttered its office in 2016. The director of its Turkey arm was arrested, but its office in the country remains functional. The group does not have a presence in China.
Amnesty said it was in compliance with all Indian laws and had received no formal communication from the authorities regarding the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month. No charges have been filed against the organization, it said. It plans to challenge the freezing of its accounts in court but said it did not expect a ruling soon.
India’s Ministry of Home Affairs alleged in a statement that Amnesty India was receiving funds from abroad in contravention of the law, a practice that had invited action from the previous government, as well. “All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power” are a “ploy to divert attention,” it said.
A spokesman for the Enforcement Directorate — an investigative agency that enforces laws regarding money laundering and foreign exchange — did not respond to a request for comment.
Amnesty is not the only international watchdog under pressure from the government. Greenpeace India has been the subject of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate since 2018. The probe forced the group to reduce its staff by a third and scale back its work on climate change.
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