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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Provide urgent medical care and facilitate bail for Shani Abeysekara – Families of the victims appeal to AG

The daughter of murdered journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge and four other family members of missing persons have requested the Attorney General to provide urgent medical care for former Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Director SSP Shani Abeysekara.

He was arrested on 31 July 2020, by the Colombo Crime Division for allegations regarding fabricating false evidence with regard to a court case against former police officer Vass Gunawardana and AG department has continued to object to release him on bail.

It was reported today that Shani Abyesekara has connected Covid19.

The letter in full:

Hon. Dappula de Livera, Attorney General,
Attorney General’s Department, Hulftsdorp,
Colombo 12

Dear Mr. de Livera,

Appeal to protect the life of former CID Director Shani Abeysekara

We, the undersigned, are victims of grave and violent crimes under the laws of Sri Lanka. According to evidence tendered by your own department to the Sri Lankan courts, our fathers and children respectively, have been murdered or forcibly disappeared by agents of the Sri Lankan military between 2008 and 2009. In all cases, your department was only able to lead this evidence before magistrates and high courts thanks to investigations conducted or supervised by Mr. Abeysekara in his capacity as a senior officer and later director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

After so many years of stonewalling, Mr. Abeysekara was one of the few impartial police officers who had the courage to seek justice for our families. If every public servant had the backbone, integrity and conviction of Mr. Abeysekara, our loved ones would still be alive today. By doing his job and seeking justice for those we lost, Mr. Abeysekara’s own life is now in danger. We owe a debt of honour to speak on his behalf.

Until late November 2019 when he was removed from the CID, Mr. Abeysekara was receiving personal security from the state due to grave threats on his life emanating from his investigations into crimes committed by powerful people. Since then he has had his security removed, been interdicted without a charge sheet, and been arrested on dubious, belated, contradictory statements made by witnesses in a murder case that was resolved years ago. Police investigating him have been accused of soliciting false statements from those they have questioned [1].

On 20th August, Mr. Abeysekara sought bail from the Gampaha High Court. The case was taken up on 27th August, 17th September, 6th October and 12th November. On every one of these occasions, your department either failed to appear in courts, failed to take up a position, or pleaded for more time to study the matter. As a result, Mr. Abeysekara was forced to remain in remand custody alongside the hardened criminals he had brought to justice for serious crimes.

Yesterday, we learned that Mr. Abeysekara is said to have contracted COVID-19 in remand custody, and he is now in military custody at Gallewa, Pollonaruwa[2]. Placing him in military custody after he has helped your department bring charges against scores of military officers for kidnapping, torturing, extorting and murdering our family members places Mr. Abeysekara at grave risk of retaliation. It is clear to all who are willing to see that powerful people want to take Mr. Abeysekara’s life.

We were shocked to learn that when Mr. Abeysekara’s bail application was taken up today at the Gampaha High Court, your officers vigorously objected[3] to bail, showing complete disregard for protecting Mr. Abeysekara’s life. Why does your department take the position that Mr. Abeysekara’s life is worth less than that of former senior LTTE leader Pillayan, or any of the other suspects including drug dealers you have helped get bail during to the pandemic?

We beg you to reconsider your objection to granting bail to Mr. Abeysekara, and ask that you show this priceless investigator, key witness and national hero at the same standard of compassion, care and consideration that you have shown to former terrorists and narcotics peddlers. If even you fail to stand by Mr. Abeysekara when his life hangs in the balance, no police officer will dare to investigate serious atrocities in the future.

Yours faithfully,

Saroja Govindaswami Naganathan,
Mother of Rajiv Naganathan,
Abducted and disappeared on 17th September 2008

Don Mervyn Premalal Weerasinghe and Jamaldeen Jennifer Weerasinghe,
Parents of Dilan Jamaldeen,
Abducted and disappeared on 17th September 2008

Ameenathul Jiffriya Sabreen,
Mother of Mohamed Sajid,
Abducted and disappeared on 17th September 2008

Vishwa Govindasawami,
Father of Pradeep Vishwanathan,
Abducted and disappeared on 17th September 2008

Ahimsa Wickrematunge,
Daughter of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Murdered on 8th January 2009

[1] CCD accused of pressuring CID sleuth to falsely implicate Shani, Daily FT (August 5, 2020), http://www.ft.lk/front-page/CCD-accused-of-pressuring-CID-sleuth-to-falsely-implicate-Shani/44-704124

[2] Ex-CID Chief Shani taken to Gallella COVID-19 treatment centre, The Morning (November 26, 2020), http://www.themorning.lk/ex-cid-chief-shani-taken-to-gallella-covid-19-treatment-centre/

[3] Bail for Shani to be decided on 07 Dec: Prisons chief instructed to take steps to save his life, The Leader (November 26, 2020), https://english.theleader.lk/news/925-bail-for-shani-to-be-decided-on-07-dec-prisons-chief- instructed-to-take-steps-to-save-his-life

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