Continuous recusals of judges from Rishad’s case are unexpected: AAL Rushdie Habeeb

By Aazam Ameen

Today’s (05) recusal of another Supreme Court Judge from the case of Parliamentarian and Leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Rishad Bathiudeen, who is currently being detained by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) has brought the total number recusals to four.

Rushdie Habeeb, Attorney-at-Law representing Bathiudeen told The Morning that this many recusals of Judges from hearing a case in a Supreme Court setup is very unexpected

“Justice Janak De Silva was the first to recuse, stating that he had given recommendations to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) tasked with looking into the Easter Attacks. Justice Yasantha Kodagoda cited Bathiudeen being his neighbour as the reason for his recusal. Justice A.H.M.D Nawaz meanwhile did not give any reasons for recusal. Today, Justice Mahinda Samayawardhana cited personal reasons along with the fact that he had heard another case relating to Bathiudeen’s brother as the reason for his recusal,” Habeeb stated.

Habeeb also said that the case has been re-fixed for 08 July to support for leave to proceed. Additionally, he noted that the petitioners have sought interim reliefs such as granting of bail or looking into the possibility of placing Bathiudeen under house arrest until the detention order is resolved.

Further, Habeeb mentioned that in court today,  the Attorney General’s (AG) Department informed the court that the submission of one more document has to take place, which may be favourable to Rishad.

“As mentioned earlier, we do not know whether the AG was consulted before his arrest. This has not been confirmed yet. The Speaker of Parliament was also not informed,” he stated.

Additionally, Habeeb told The Morning that while Bathiudeen is attending Parliament, he has limited access to lawyers, especially during the past two weeks when Bathiudeen was not granted access to any lawyers. Habeeb also notes that Bathiudeen is having a “difficult” time in detention, and is subjected to lack of proper facilities and overcrowding.

“He is a diabetic patient. At times his sugar levels spike along with his blood pressure levels. The cells are infested with rats which has resulted in an inability to get proper sleep. Psychologically, he is not in a good position,” Habeeb said.

He also reiterated that the arrest and detention of Bathiudeen has nothing to do with the judicial custody of a citizen.

“My client is currently in administrative custody, we are trying to bring this to the attention of the court. The due process of law is that after a person is arrested, a judge has to look into the matter before a decision is made. This is why the law provides for police officers to keep suspects in custody only for 24 hours, before producing them before a court of law,” he stated.

Habeeb also notes that the multiple recusals of Supreme Court judges has delayed the primary review of Bathiudeen’s detention.

When queried if the European Union (EU) Resolution and the pressure exerted on the Government to withdraw or repeal the PTA will affect Bathiudeen’s case, he stated that such interventions are welcome.

“The PTA is a draconian law which has no place in a democracy. It is used to inflict political victimisation and personal revenge. Bathiudeen is a political prisoner. This is why we welcome the EU’s intervention. However, we are not supporting the withdrawal of the GSP+ trade concession as it will make things worse for Sri Lankan citizens,” he stated.

Habeeb went on to highlight that it has been reiterated to the EU that the arrest and detention of Bathiudeen is an “illegal misuse of the PTA”, and that he believes that the EU will take steps towards the release of Bathiudeen.