Sep 21, 2019

Journalists, whom Rajapaksas attempted to imprison for life, released

Eight journalists attached to 'Sri Lanka Mirror' and 'Sri Lanka X News' websites, who were arrested in 2012 during Mahinda Rajapaksa's tenure as president, were released by the Colombo Magistrate's Court today (20 September).

They were released after the Attorney General informed the courts that he does not intend to continue the case as there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations leveled by the Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

Accordingly, 'Sri Lanka Mirror' editor - Kelum Shivantha, Subhash Jayawardena, Ajith Seneviratne, Himashi Karunaratne, Tharindu Rajapaksa, Shiranthani Manawadu, Asanka Nivantha and Siddique Kariyappar were released.

The suspects were arrested by the CID on June 29, 2012, and were accusing them of treason and dishonoring then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Accordingly, CID had submitted a B report against the journalists to the Magistrate under Articles 115, 118 and 120 of the Penal Code.

However, 10 years had passed since the repeal of Article 118 of the Penal Code by then.

Having failed to prove the allegations made against the journalists, CID later charged them of storing pornographic images on their computers, which also failed.

Colombo Additional Magistrate Prasanna Alwis on September 18, 2013 ordered the release of 'Sri Lanka Mirror' and 'Sri Lanka X News' journalists until further notice and to present themselves before courts when summoned.

Even though the Magistrate ordered the CID to release the seized computers excluding their hard drives, the computers have not been released to Sri Lanka Mirror so far.

Summoning back after 6 years
However, the Fundamental Rights Petition submitted by the journalists under Sections 13-1, 14-1 (A) and 14-1 (G) of the Constitution following the arrest - stating the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, engaging in a profession of choice alone or with one or more persons have been violated due to unlawful arrest- is still being heard.

It is significant that the journalists, who were released on bail with a condition to present themselves before court when summoned, were summoned before court after 6 years since the courts took up the case last.

If the allegations were proven, the journalists could have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Attorney Musa Lai and Upul Kumarapperuma appeared on behalf of the journalists.

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