HC revokes bail, remands nine suspects

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The Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar on Friday (3), revoked the bail granted to nine Army intelligence officers, including the former Commandant of the Girithale Army Camp, Lieutenant Commander Shammi Kumararatne, in the forced abduction and disappearance case of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda and ordered them to be remanded till 13 June.

The case was convened before a Trial-at-Bar, comprising Judges Sanjeewa Moraes, Mahen Weeraman and Damith Thotawatta.

The nine suspects, whose bail was revoked by the Bench, were identified as Karunaratne, W.D. Upasena, R.M.P.K. Rajapaksa, S.M. Ravindra Rupasena, Chaminda Abeyratne, Kanishka Guneratne, I. Balasubramanium, Tharanga Gamage and T.E.R. Peiris.

The Court having perused the contradictory nature of the testimony, given by witness former LTTE intelligence unit member Thiru Kumar, ordered to rescind the bail granted to the aforesaid suspects and for their immediate arrest and incarceration.

Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris prosecuted on behalf of the Attorney General’s Department, while Attorney-at-Law Upul Kumarapperuma appeared for the aggrieved party.

He stated that before hearing testimony from the witness, it should be probed whether the defence had exerted any undue pressure on the witness.

DSG Peiris stated that the prosecution was not opposed to it and explained that when a warrant had been issued on the witness over his failure to be present in Court previously, the witness had not got involved with the prosecution and had subsequently appeared in Court via a President’s Counsel.

He remarked that this had further proved, that more than the prosecution, pressure had been exerted on the witnesses by external forces and he too backed the request made by the aggrieved party.

Taking the submissions into consideration, the Court ordered to record evidence from the witness and warned that if in that process it is confirmed that the witness had been intimidated, then bail granted to the suspects will be ordered to be rescinded and order for their prompt arrest and remanding.

Accordingly, the recording of evidence from the witness, took place and he stated that till he had gone to the CID, he had not known who Prageeth Ekneligoda was.

The witness said that he had by-hearted a few statements that had been given to him by the CID, ahead of their recording it.

The witness further told the Court, that a statement that had been given by him previously to the Homagama Chief Magistrate’s Court, as per Provisions contained in Section 127 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

He added that after providing the statement to the Court, the Magistrate had not read it back to him.

Afterwards, the prosecution stated that based on the evidence given by the witness, it was amply clear that the latter had provided evidence against the CID, as well as a top official of the Judiciary and that it could be surmised, that there has been some form of pressure exerted on the witness.

The prosecution then urged to issue an order for the imprisonment of the witness, to ensure his safety and noted that there should be recourse for a witness, to provide his or her testimony in Court without fear or favour.

Taking the submissions into consideration, the Bench dismissed the request for the incarceration of the witness and ordered the bail granted to the nine suspects to be promptly revoked and for their arrest and imprisonment till 13 June.

The AG has indicted nine suspects before the Trial-at-Bar on 17 counts and on charges of the forced abduction and disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda on or before 25 January, 12 years ago, and for having flouted Provisions contained in Sections of the Penal Code via their actions.

By Hansi Nanayakkara