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Sri Lanka: Custody of Buddhist monk under ICCPR act extended

Image: Rajangane Saddharathana Thera’s online videos have caused unrest between races and religions, investigators said in court.

A Sri Lankan court has extended the remand period of a Buddhist monk arrested last week for disrupting religious harmony in the island nation.

Rajangane Saddharathana Thera, popular on social media, was remanded until June 21. He was initially remanded until June 7.

His online videos have caused unrest between races and religions and his statements have threatened certain people, said the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in court.

The monk was arrested on April 29 following a complaint by Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera, another Buddhist monk.

In the complaint, Sagara Thera said Saddharathana Thera used vulgar words and made statements that displeased not only Buddhists but also non-Buddhist people.

The CID told the court that their investigation led to suspicion that many people were behind the monk and that a large amount of money was exchanged between them.

The CID said more than 60 million Sri Lankan rupees (some US$205,400) have been traced to a bank account held in the name of the monk.

Attorney Amila Egodamahawatta, who appeared for the accused monk, said that no evidence has been presented before the court that his client has caused unrest or conflicts between races and religions.

Surini Nanayakkara, a Buddhist activist, said there is no evidence that the monk has caused unrest.

These are political games, she said. ”People have to be vigilant for such political issues since the presidential election will be held next year,” she added.

Saddharathana Thera said on social media two weeks before his arrest that he has no political, caste, or religious differences.

“I do not belong to any political party or caste. I help everyone. I have not cheated anyone. I am speaking from my heart,” Saddharathana Thera said.

Comedian Natasha Edirisuriya, who was arrested by the CID for ‘insulting Buddhism’ has been remanded in custody, and pastor Jerome Fernando is also being probed for insulting Buddhism.

The government has reported that certain groups have emerged from different parts of the country to embarrass it.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has decided to establish a special police unit to investigate and act against groups that disturb religious harmony in the country, reports said.

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