BY Faadhila Thassim and Kamal Mahendra Weeraratne
The Court of Appeal, yesterday (31), acquitted SLPP Parliamentarian Premalal Jayasekara and two others, who had been sentenced to death, from all charges in connection with a fatal shooting incident in Kahawatte during the 2015 Presidential Election campaign.
The acquittals followed the appeal, filed by Jayasekara, former Sabaragamuwa Provincial Councillor Nilantha Jayakody and former Kahawatta Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Vajira Darshana de Silva, against the death sentence handed down to them by the Ratnapura High Court. The appeal was taken up before Appeal Court Justices Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne and R. Gurusinghe.
The shooting incident took place on 5 January 2015 and resulted in the death of a political supporter, who was decorating an election campaign stage of the then Common Opposition Candidate for the Presidential Election, Maithripala Sirisena at Kahawatta in the Ratnapura District.
The UNP supporter was wounded in the incident and succumbed to injuries in hospital on 8 January. While Jayasekera was released on bail in December 2015, the Ratnapura High Court Judge Rohan Jayasuriya on 31 July 2020 sentenced the three accused to death.
Court of Appeal Judge N. Bandula Karunarathna delivering his verdict yesterday (31) observed that there is no evidence to prove that the accused-appellants were holding guns or any other weapons in their hands and that it is crystal clear that the prosecution had failed to prove that the gun shots were fired by the accused appellants.
He noted that the death of the deceased and the injuries caused to the victims were established but there is no evidence to prove that the three accused-appellants had fired the shot and they had intentionally murdered Shantha Dodamgoda and attempted to cause the death of Karunadasa Weerasinghe and Mohamed Hussain Ilshan adding therefore that the High Court Judge was wrong in law and fact to convict the accused-appellants on the charges in the indictment.
Karunarathna J further observed that the dock statements of the accused-appellants were not subjected to a proper evaluation by the learned trial Judge and this has deprived the three accused-appellants of a fair and impartial trial.
It was also stated that the authenticity of the CCTV footage goes to the root of the case which has not been established by the prosecution and that the High Court Judge had not made his observations on the CCTV footage and rather had narrated what the witnesses had seen from the footage.
It was held thereby that the case against the accused-appellants was not proven beyond reasonable doubt and the conviction is not within the well-established principles of law in which circumstances, the conviction of the accused-appellants cannot stand in law and was set aside and the three accused-appellants were acquitted and discharged from all charges in the indictment of the case.
‘’On the part of the accused-appellants, all grounds of appeal, as have been urged above, cumulatively point towards miscarriage of justice, failure of justice and irreparable prejudice to the interest of the appellants,’’ Karunarathna J observed.
President’s Counsel Nalin Ladduwahetty with Attorneys-at-Law Niran Ankitel, Hafeel Faris, Amila Palliyage, Vajira Ranasinghe, Thusitha Ranasinghe, Buddhika Chandrasekara, Shalika Gunawardana, Kavithri Ubeysekara and Yasas Hewapathirana, appeared on behalf of Jayasekera.
President’s Counsel Anuja Premaratna with Attorneys-at-Law Iromie Jayarathna, Naushalya Rajapaksha, Imasha Senadheera and Nayana Dissanayaka, President’s Counsel U.R. de Silva with Attorneys-at-Law Harshana Wijenayaka, Kasun Liyanage and Savithri Fernando appeared on behalf of the other two accused-appellants. President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris with Attorney-at-Law Amila Egodamahawatta appeared for the aggrieved party.