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2012 Welikada Prison Incident: Death sentence for ex-Superintendent Lamahewage; Rangajeewa acquitted

 

  • Colombo HC special Trial-at-Bar concludes case 
  • Convict claims case built on ‘political conspiracy’ 
  • Prisoners’ rights group welcomes decision 

The Colombo High Court (HC) Special Trial-at-Bar yesterday (12) unanimously sentenced former Welikada Magazine Prison Superintendent Emil Ranjan Lamahewage to death, over the case filed regarding the 2012 Welikada Prison incident which claimed the lives of prisoners, while fellow accused party, Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) Inspector of Police (IP) Neomal Rangajeewa was acquitted. 

The decision was given by Judges Gihan Kulatunga, Pradeep Hettiarachchi, and Manjula Thilakarathne, after the judgment was initially postponed on 6 January 2022. 

When giving the decision in court, Judge Hettiarachchi said that the testimonies of 40 witnesses, including four eye witnesses, had been studied, whilst 93 documents had been investigated. 

Judge Thilakarathne said that statements from witnesses have proved that Lamahewage had abducted prisoner Malith Sameera Perera alias “Konda Amila” who was imprisoned at the Welikada Prison at the time. 

However, Judge Thilakarathne said that since there was a contradiction in witnesses identifying Rangajeewa, the latter was acquitted. 

When queried whether he wished to provide a final statement, Lamahewage declared that this was a court case “built on a political conspiracy”. “I was a prison official at the time of the incident and I had no need to be involved in such activities. There were about 3,000 people in prison. From them, how can I be the only one accused of this? This is a case built on a political conspiracy. I reject all accusations,” he declared in open court. 

On 9 and 10 November 2012, 27 prisoners were killed and approximately 50 were injured within the Welikada Prison Complex. However, the Attorney General (AG) filed the case about only eight who were killed, according to evidence that was available. 

Speaking to The Morning yesterday, Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners Chairman Attorney-At-Law (AAL) Senaka Perera said that the decision is a “positive development” and that they see it as a “deterrent and warning to prison officials or any individuals who may wish to commit such offences”. 

The Committee of Inquiry into the Welikada Prison Incident – 2012, appointed in 2015, recommended that then Defence Secretary (incumbent President) Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former State Intelligence Services and Terrorism Investigations Division Head Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Chandra Nimal Wakishta, former Prisons Intelligence Unit Jailor and Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Indika Sampath, former Prisons Commissioner General (CG) Pradeep W. Kodippili, former Army Brig. Shantha Dissanayake, and Lamahewage, be charged under Section 162 of the Penal Code (public officer disobeying a direction of the law with the intent to cause injury to any persons or the Government). 

Investigation reports by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) show that Rangajeewa, along with two others, had entered Welikada Prison on the night of the incident, dressed in civil clothes, and had taken a group of detainees to another location. The CID said that eight of the detainees had been shot dead.

Former Welikada Prison Class I Jailor P.K.W. Kudabandara told the High Court bench in October 2019 that many army officers had entered the Prison in November 2012, and had shown him a list of names of imprisoned persons. According to Kudabandara, they had referred to it as “Gota’s list”. He told the court at the time that he had heard prisoners screaming for help, and begging not to be killed.