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Easter Sunday bombings trials: Several top cops as prosecution witnesses

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Several senior police officials are scheduled to testify as witnesses for the prosecution in the cases filed by the Attorney General (AG) in connection with the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April 2019, in addition to former State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Nilantha Jayawardena, The Morning learnt.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (6), Presidential Secretariat Director General of Legal Affairs Attorney-at-Law Harigupta Rohanadeera said that the indictments filed by the AG with regard to the Easter Sunday terror attacks stated as to who these witnesses would be.

However, when questioned as to the names of these witnesses for the prosecution, Rohanadeera said that the names could not be divulged.

“There are other police officials who would become witnesses of the prosecution as well, but it is not possible to name them at the moment,” he explained.

The Morning reported last week that SDIG Jayawardena is to be a witness for the prosecution in the cases against former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara and then Defence Ministry Secretary Hemasiri Fernando. He also said that Jayawardena would appear as a witness of the prosecution in the main trial in connection with the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

SDIG Jayawardena is to be named a state witness against a backdrop where the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) has, in its final report, recommended that the AG consider instituting criminal proceedings against the former under suitable provisions of the Penal Code in connection with the terror attacks.

According to the PCoI report, the first communication SDIG Jayawardena made in writing, after receiving the intelligence information regarding a possible terror attack on 4 April 2019, was to then Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis by a letter dated 7 April 2019. It is titled “Information of an alleged plan of attack” and the PCoI, during his testimony before it, queried as to why the term “alleged” was used by him when the foreign counterpart that sent him the intelligence information had not termed it so, and his response was: “They say but we don’t know.” The PCoI, considering SDIG Jayawardena’s evidence before it, had concluded that he had not taken the said intelligence information seriously.

On 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, three churches (St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, and Zion Church in Batticaloa) and three luxury hotels in Colombo (Cinnamon Grand Colombo, The Kingsbury Colombo, and Shangri-La Colombo) were targeted in a series of co-ordinated Islamist terrorist suicide bombings. Later that day, another two bomb explosions took place at a house in Dematagoda and the Tropical Inn Lodge in Dehiwala.

A total of 269 people excluding the suicide bombers were killed in the bombings, including at least 45 foreign nationals, while at least 500 were injured. All eight of the suicide bombers in the attacks were Sri Lankan citizens associated with the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) organisation founded by the suicide bomber at the Shangri-La Colombo, Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zaharan alias Zaharan Hashim.