The Criminal Investigations Department seized the laptop computer belonging to former Sunday Observer Editor Dharisha Bastians last week, a statement from the journalist said.
Bastians is also the Colombo reporter for the New York Times.
In a statement released today (15) Bastians said the CID had arrived at her residence in Colombo twice and made efforts to seize her laptop without a warrant. The family had obtained legal advice and informed the CID officials that the computer could not be handed over without a court order, the statement noted.
Last Tuesday (9), Bastians said the CID had arrived at her home with a warrant.
On the 29th of May 2020 and the 4th of June 2020, officials from the Criminal Investigation Department arrived at my home in Colombo and made efforts to seize my personal laptop computer without a warrant.
“The officers searched the entire house including bedrooms, my desk and my work space. Photographs were taken during the visit. My computer was found, seized and sealed. A receipt was provided for the laptop, the power adapter and the laptop bag. Statements were recorded from family members residing at my home,” the statement from the journalist said.
Over the past several months, her name has been linked with an ongoing criminal investigation, the journalist said in her statement.
The CID has sought to link the journalist to an alleged plot to abduct Swiss Embassy staffer Garnier Francis. Earlier this year the SLPP union at Lake House lodged a complaint urging the CID to seize Bastians’ laptop citing her alleged involvement with Francis.
The CID told Court in February that Bastians’ former colleagues had been questioned about the laptop.
Bastians said that previously in the course of the same probe, the CID had obtained her call data records without a court order, scrutinized them and exposed the information.
“As a journalist, I was horrified at the public exposure of my telephone records, which could seriously endanger and compromise my sources and contacts,” she said.
The journalist added that while she was willing to cooperate with the investigation, she remained “gravely concerned” about efforts by interested parties to compromise the contents of the seized device.
“I put my faith in Sri Lanka’s judiciary, to ensure due process is followed with regard to my computer which is now in the custody of the CID, particularly because it is a device I once used in my work as a journalist,” Bastians said.
The statement issued by Dharisha Bastians:
Magistrate orders Government Analyst to examine journalist’s laptop for alterations since seizure by CID
The Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne has ordered an examination of the laptop belonging to journalist Dharisha Bastians by the Government Analyst and an initial examination of whether alterations had been made to the device between June 4 and June 16.
Lawyers for Bastians who appeared in Court today (16) made an application to the Magistrate that the CID had visited the Journalist’s home on two occasion before they arrived with a search warrant on June 9, 2020.
Under the circumstances attorneys for the Journalist requested the court to ensure the integrity of the data of the laptop had not been tampered with between the date of the seizure and the date the laptop was produced in court.
The Magistrate then ordered the Government Analyst to do a full inspection of the laptop to ascertain if alterations had been made between June 4 and June 16, when the laptop was produced in court and marked as evidence.
In order to determine the exact date of the seizure, the Magistrate also ordered that the journalist’s father in law who handed the device over to the CID be present in court on the next date – July 21st 2020.
When the Swiss Embassy abduction case came up in the Colombo Magistrate’s Court today the CID said that they had obtained a search warrant for the laptop belonging to Bastians, and seized the device based on their investigations.
The CID also asked the Magistrate to instruct the Government Analyst to send its final report on the mobile telephone belonging to Swiss Embassy worker Garnier Francis. The Magistrate ordered for the report to be accordingly sent.
In a statement issued on Monday (15) Bastians expressed concerns about the integrity of the data and documents on her device being tampered with by “interested parties”.