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Covid-positive Hejaaz Hizbullah raises eyebrows

Attorney-at-Law (AAL) Hejaaz Hizbullah, who was in the custody of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) over his alleged connection to the Easter Sunday bombings of 21 April 2019, is reported to have contracted Covid-19, raising eyebrows among certain sections of society.

The news about Hizbullah’s health condition was informed to the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court by the CID when the case was taken up yesterday (7), which was also the date he was scheduled to be produced before court.

The “Justice for Hejaaz” campaign had tweeted yesterday: “The CID claims that Hizbullah who was to be produced in court today, has tested positive for Covid-19. He is now being kept under quarantine.”

Hizbullah was arrested in April 2020, and his lawyers had, on 10 December 2020, filed a writ petition before the Court of Appeal seeking access to Hizbullah.

Sources close to Hizbullah’s family, who wished to remain anonymous, speaking to The Morning yesterday, lamented Hizbullah’s health situation and expressed concerns about the fact that Hizbullah was reported to be Covid-19 positive just before being produced before court.

Meanwhile, commenting on the state of affairs, human rights activist Shreen Abdul Saroor, speaking to The Morning, opined that the situation pertaining to Hizbullah was symptomatic of a trend concerning the legal proceedings into the said bombings. This is involving firstly, former CID Director Shani Abeysekara (who she claimed also handled cases which were connected to the said terror attacks), and secondly, the wife of Easter Sunday bomber Zahran Hashim (who testified before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry [PCOI] appointed to probe the bombings), with the latest victim being Hizbullah.

“How does this happen? Every time someone important, who is connected to the investigations into the bombings, is to be produced before court or set to testify, they get infected by Covid-19. Law enforcement authorities and various others don’t want the real truth of the bombings to come out so they are making Covid-19 an excuse, along with every other excuse, for the truth to not come out,” she alleged.  

Speaking to The Morning in this regard, human rights activist Ruki Fernando also queried yesterday as to how Hizbullah, someone who is in detention within an extremely constricted and restricted space and with very limited access to others in the custody of the State, contracted Covid-19.

“Something is radically wrong. It is not like he went shopping or attended a funeral or a party, which is where people could generally contract Covid-19. This means that the people in charge have not taken proper care. The State is responsible in this regard and clearly it has been negligent.”

Speaking about the rights afforded to someone in Hizbullah’s situation, Fernando also emphasised that Covid-19 should not be used as an excuse to hamper the process of meting out justice, which involves him being produced before the Magistrate and having access to lawyers. He pointed out that at present, local courts hearing various applications, including bail applications, were using technology such as Skype to conduct judicial proceedings including trial hearings in court, and therefore the same should be followed concerning Hizbullah’s case.  

“At least now, he and others like him, including children, should be afforded proper care”.

Members of Hizbullah’s team of lawyers, namely President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva and Attorney-at-Law Hafeel Farisz, when contacted by The Morning in this regard, refused to comment. Although The Morning got in touch with Hizbullah’s spouse, she was not available for immediate comment.