Azath Salley acquitted, seeks compensation
By Hansi Nanayakkara
Colombo High Court Judge Amal Ranaraja yesterday acquitted and discharged former Western Province Governor Azath Salley from a case in which he had been charged with making a controversial statement during a media conference detrimental to religious/ethnic harmony in the country.
Delivering the 15-page verdict, the High Court Judge stated the plaintiffs had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant had made a statement that would threaten harmony between religious groups or incite violence among different ethnic groups.
Accordingly, Judge Ranaraja acquitted and discharged Salley.
Later, the Judge issued notice on NFF MPs Mohammad Muzammil, Jayananda Wellawala and Nimal Piyatissa, who had lodged the complaint with the Police against Salley, to appear before him on 21 February next year.
Following the delivery of the verdict, President’s Counsel Maithri Guneratne, who appeared for Salley, stated that his client had been incarcerated for 270 days on a false complaint.
He urged Judge Ranaraja to issue an order to the plaintiffs to pay some form of compensation to his client Salley due to the loss of reputation, public image and waste of time incurred by him over his false arrest and imprisonment.
Accordingly, the Court inquired from the Attorney General whether he was opposed to it and Senior State Counsel Wasantha Perera, representing the prosecution, responded in the negative and mentioned that the stance of the plaintiffs on it should be sought.
Hence, the Judge noticed the three aforesaid NFF MPs to be present in Court on the said date next year.
The Attorney General had on 16 March this year instructed the Inspector General of Police to arrest the former Governor as remarks made by him, during a media briefing held on 10 March, had violated provisions contained in the PTA, Penal Code and the ICCPR Act No. 5 of 2007.
Salley was arrested in the evening of 16 March and detained by the CID for five months for questioning following which he was remanded after being produced in Court on 17 August. The AG then filed indictments against the accused Governor in the High Court.