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SC to take up Moulavis’ coercion FR

By Pamodi Waravita

 

The fundamental rights (FR) petition against the alleged coercion of two moulavis by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to frame detained attorney Hejaaz Hizbullah, will likely be heard before the Supreme Court (SC) next week as an urgent matter, The Morning learnt.

Attorney-at-Law Erick Balasooriya, who filed the petition, told The Morning it has been filed since the two moulavis had informed him on 30 April 2021 that officers of the CID were coercing them to say that they had seen Hizbullah meet one of the masterminds of the Easter Sunday terror attacks, Zahran Hashim.

The two moulavis alleged that they had been instructed to say that they witnessed the meeting take place at a school in Batticaloa run by the “Save the Pearls” organisation, to which Hizbullah is affiliated. However, Balasooriya said that the moulavis have claimed that they were not aware of any such meetings between Hizbullah and Zahran.

The two moulavis were arrested in March 2021 under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA) for their alleged involvement in the Easter Sunday bombings of 21 April 2019.

Balasooriya further said that he has informed the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) regarding how his attorney-client privilege was violated while he was meeting with the moulavis, as two CID officers had recorded his conversations.

Last week, the BASL wrote to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne regarding these alleged rights violations that lawyers face when gaining access to their clients in detention.

According to Balasooriya, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP and President’s Counsel (PC) M.A. Sumanthiran, who had appeared on behalf of the two moulavis at the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court on 1 June, had made an application stating that the duo wished to make statements directly to the Colombo Fort Magistrate. In this regard, the legal proceedings will likely commence again later this month.

Hizbullah was arrested on 14 April 2020 under the PTA for allegedly being involved in the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks, although he was only charged a year later in March.