21 protesters granted bail

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Twenty-one (21) protesters, who were arrested and produced before the Colombo Fort Magistrate yesterday (20), for obstructing the entrance to the Ministry of Finance and the two entrances to the Presidential Secretariat, were enlarged on bail in the evening.

The 21 protesters were later arrested, the Lotus Road was temporarily closed to control the situation and Army were deployed. Anti-Government protesters at Galle Face Green later gathered outside the Presidential Secretariat demanding the release of the protesters.

The protest took place in a backdrop where representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were due to hold discussions regarding the economic crisis and the Police noted that the protest resulted in a delay in holding the meeting.

The protesters who were arrested on charges, under the Penal Code, including unlawful assembly together with certain other offences,were enlarged on surety bail in Rs 500,000 each by the Colombo Fort Magistrate ThilinaGamage after over 30 lawyers appeared on their behalf.

Attorney-at-Law Sunil Watagala, making submissions on behalf of the arrestees, said the protesters were involved in a peaceful protest and that it was not an unlawful act while noting that the statements made by the Police that the protesters attempted to hinder the discussions that were to be held with IMF representatives was misleading.  Meanwhile, the Secretary to the Ministry of Financewas late to attend the discussionwith the10-member IMF delegation and the Prime Minister last morning,due to both entrances to the Ministry of Finance being blocked by a group of protesters.

The Special Task Force (STF) and the Police, who were called in to bring the situation under control, arrested 21 protesters who had blocked the entrance to the Lotus Roundabout of the Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Finance, Police Spokesman SSP NihalThalduwa said.

“On Sunday night (19), protesters blocked the entrance to the Presidential Secretariat as well as two entrances to the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury. The Police say that the officers who work in nearby offices and the people who come to get their services had to face many difficulties as the protesters continued with constructing huts. The blockade of the gate had disrupted office activities and also disrupted discussions between the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and the IMF delegation,” he added.

By Faadhila Thassim and Sahan Tennekoon