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Statement: Besides the Easter Sunday attacks, I have detailed information about many political murders and abductions – Hanzeer Azad Maulana

Image: Hanzeer Azad Maulana speaking at the screening of Channel 4 film in Geneva.

20 September 2023.

The documentary “Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings”, which was broadcast on 5 September by the British Channel 4 has created considerable interest in Sri Lanka. Various articles and editorials have been written, and while the documentary has generated some support for an international independent investigation, a lot of rumours and fake news have been published and even my wife and children have been slandered and their pictures have been published on social media. I would therefore like to make the following statement.

From 2006 to February 2022 I have worked for Shivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, a Member of Parliament, State Minister of Rural Road Development, former Chief Minister of the Eastern Province and leader of the political party Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), which had earlier been a militant group. I was the Propaganda Secretary as well as the spokesperson of the TMVP. I was not a fighter. Indeed, I have never been trained to use arms. Because of my position I had access to important and secret information related to the Easter Sunday suicide attacks as well as many political killings that took place during the period of the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

On 21 April 2019 on Easter Sunday a terror attack killed 269 persons including 45 children, 40 foreigners and injured more than 500 others. Only when the media revealed the identity of the suicide bombers after the attack did I realize that I had strong evidence about the masterminds and other perpetrators and also the motivation for this terror attack. I have in no way been involved in preparing or carrying out these terrible and devastating attacks.

Following the defeat of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government in 2015, Pillayan was arrested and imprisoned in the Batticaloa prison under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in connection with the murder of former Tamil National Alliance Member of Parliament Joseph Pararajasingham, who was shot dead on Christmas Day 2005 at the St. Mary’s Cathedral, Batticaloa. As a secretary to Pillayan, the court had granted me permission, along with his lawyers, to meet Pillayan to discuss legal matters. During a visit in September 2017 Pillayan told me that some Muslim prisoners from Kattankudy were with him in the same cell. A father, his son and six others had been remanded for extremist activities and attacks on another Muslim group in Kattankudy. They were from an organisation called National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ). On Pillayan’s request I met Sainy Moulavi.

Later, Pillayan asked me to contact the Military Intelligence (MI) to arrange funds for these prisoners’ relatives to pay their bail. They were released on 24th October 2017.

At the end of January 2018, Pillayan told me to arrange a secret meeting between [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld], who was then a brigadier, and Sainy Moulavi’s group. Pillayan said that [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] would inform me about the meeting place and time. A few days later [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] contacted me and asked me to request Sainy Moulavi to come to the Puttalam Vanaththavillu area.

The next day I traveled with an MI officer from Colombo to Puttalam, Sainy Moulavi’s group came from Kurunegala. Pillayan advised us not to use my own vehicle or driver for this meeting and said that the transport would be facilitated by the MI.

The meeting took place in early February 2018 at a large coconut farm of 50 to 60 acres, located outside of Puttalam. [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] arrived in a grey colour Toyota car with a driver. Sainy Moulavi arrived 30 minutes later with a group of six persons in a white van. Sainy Moulavi introduced his elder brother Moulavi Zaharan as the leader of the group.

The meeting lasted for more than two hours. I did not participate in the meeting but waited outside. After the meeting I traveled to Batticaloa and on the next day updated Pillayan about the meeting.

Pillayan said that [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] had a big plan and a deal with Zahran’s group like they the one with TMVP. He told me to keep the information about this meeting secret and to assist if they asked for any help. Besides the meeting with Sainy Moulavi in prison in September 2017 I met Zahran and his group only one time in February 2018 during the meeting with [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld]. Apart from this I had no connection or relationship with them. I was not aware of their terrorist intent or plan until after the terror attack.

On Easter Sunday, 21st April 2019, [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] contacted me at around 7 am and told me to go immediately to the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo, to pick up a person who was waiting there and take the person’s phone. I told him that I was currently in Batticaloa and not in Colombo. About an hour after this conversation simultaneous terrorist attacks took place across the country.

Immediately after the attacks Pillayan sent a message through a prison guard and asked me to meet him urgently. When I saw him in prison at about 11 am on Easter Sunday he told me that the mastermind behind the Easter attack was [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] and that he had assumed that an attack like this would happen. He asked me to call Sainy Moulavi to find out, there was, however, no response. It was only because of media reports in the evening that I realized that the participants in the meeting that I had organized on the request of Pillayan were indeed suicide bombers involved in the Easter attack. Through the President’s investigation commission and the inquiries of the CID I also learned that the person whom [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] had wanted me to meet was Jameel, the bomber who had been tasked to carry out a suicide attack at the Taj Samudra Hotel but then, in a last-minute change of plans, left the Taj and later exploded himself in a small hotel in Dehiwela.

Pillayan and the TMVP supported Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the last presidential election. After Gotabaya Rajapaksa became president, [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] returned to Sri Lanka and got promoted as Major General and appointed as Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS), a job he continues to hold. The government however did not take quick action to release Pillayan as promised because the former Attorney General refused to withdraw the charge sheet against Pillayan as there was conclusive evidence against him. During the General Election of 5th August 2020, when he was still in prison, Pillayan was elected Member of Parliament. After the election Pillayan asked me and his brother to meet [ Military intelligence officer’s name withheld] to tell him not to forget how Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the present government came into power and to warn him that he would have to pay a huge price if Pillayan were not released. A few days later the new Attorney General withdrew the case against Pillayan at the High Court of Batticaloa.

Besides my knowledge about the organisers of the Easter Sunday attacks, I have detailed information about many political murders and abductions which took place between 2005 and 2015. A large number of these killings were committed by the Tripoli Platoon, a killing squad operating undercover in the intelligence unit of the Sri Lankan Army. The unit was initially led by Major XXXXX XXXXXXXX and later by Colonel XXXXXX XXXXXXX. It was under the direct command of Maj. Gen. XXXX XXXXXXX a, who then had been Director of MI and was later made Army Chief of Staff. This platoon reported to Gotabaya Rajapaksa directly and received orders only from him, when he was Secretary of Defence. This platoon and the TMVP were responsible for a number of major political assassinations during and after the war, including the assassinations and disappearances of journalists. They are particularly responsible for the assassinations of former parliamentarians Joseph Pararajasingam and Nadarajah Raviraj, the assassinations of the journalists Lasantha Wickrematunge, Sivaram and Nadesan as well as the disappearances of Professor Sivasubramaniam Raveendranath, Vice-Chancellor of the Eastern University and the cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda. I also have information about many other human rights violations carried out jointly by the MI and the TMVP. Although I did not agree with what they were doing, I could not disassociate from them as I feared for my life. Until today I fear that he Sri Lankan authorities would abduct, imprison, or even kill me. Compounding my fears, police visited my mother and my sister soon after the broadcast of Channel Four’s documentary, and two unknown persons checked with my sister’s son in an attempt to discover my telephone number and my address.

The President’s Commission and the Parliamentary Select Committee, which were both tasked to investigate the Easter Sunday bomb attack, failed to reveal the truth about the mastermind and the perpetrators of this tragedy. As mentioned in the fundamental rights petition filed in the Supreme Court on 18 February 2022 by Shani Abeysekera, the former director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the investigation team he led had uncovered important evidence of connections between the attackers and the Army, but were prevented by the Army from continuing their investigation.

Because of my knowledge, I have been severely threatened by the Sri Lankan government’s intelligence service. I fled to Europe seeking political asylum to save my life. As a witness to the planning of several terrorist attacks, political assassinations and kidnappings in Sri Lanka, I am willing to testify in investigations into these crimes. I do not believe, however, that the authorities in Sri Lanka have an interest in revealing the truth. I will therefore only bear witness before an international independent investigation.

– Hanzeer Azad Maulana

( This statement was distributed at the side event held on 21 September 2023 in Geneva)

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