A senior official at the Attorney General’s Department (AGD) is determined to keep Shani Abeysekera, Sri Lanka’s most widely respected criminal investigator, behind bars, Colombo Telegraph learns on the eve of his much-anticipated bail hearing in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday (15).
The AGD official has decided that the case against SSP Shani Abeysekera will continue despite written reports to the Attorney General from three senior prosecutors inside the Department recommending the former CID Director’s discharge and exoneration.
All three reports independently confirm why the case against Abeysekera has no merit, Colombo Telegraph learns. At least one report goes into evidence and proceedings in the original 2016 criminal trial connected to the current case against Abeysekera in which the former CID officer is being accused of fabricating evidence, while another deals with the shoddy way Abeysekera is being investigated by the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD).
The CCD case is riddled with inconsistencies, missing statements, and highly suspect inquiry methods. CCD officers, under orders to persecute and imprison Abeysekera at any cost, are scrambling to build a case against the former CID Director who was once praised by the former Attorney General and current Chief Justice of Sri Lanka for his meticulousness in criminal investigations.
Despite written recommendations from three prosecutors inside the Department affirming that the case against the former CID Director would not hold up in court, one senior official is determined to ensure President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not angered by Shani Abeysekera’s release, even without any basis to hold him.
Colombo Telegraph learns that this senior official has ambitions to be appointed to the Supreme Court, and is concerned that any attempt to treat Abeysekera fairly and impartially would anger the President and vaporize his judicial dreams for as long as Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains in office.
Shani Abeysekera’s bail hearing has suffered long delays, with judges recusing themselves and allowing the AG’s department to drag its feet on filing objections to the motion for bail. The last time Abeysekera’s case was delayed on June 4, it was over a judge claiming he could not come to court due to rain, despite that same judge and every other Court of Appeal judge having made it to court without incident on every other rainy day.
It is unprecedented at the AG’s Department, for one senior official to overrule multiple reports from prosecutors recommending a suspect’s discharge, especially without having reviewed the underlying evidence or providing a legitimate basis to keep a citizen incarcerated without credible evidence against him. The reports recommending Abeysekera’s exoneration are at least a month old, Colombo Telegraph learns, and predate new Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam’s criminal division mounting vigorous objections to bailing the former CID Director.
Former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera has been in jail for 11 months on highly dubious charges relating to a former senior police officer he nabbed for running a contract killing squad. At least one police officer has already told a Magistrate that the CCD coerced him to implicate Abeysekera, asking him to choose between lying about the former CID Director or facing arrest himself.
Former DIG Vas Gunewardane was convicted by a three-judge bench of the High Court and sentenced to death for the murder of businessman Mohamed Shiyam in 2013. As CID Director, Abeysekera led the department that investigated a series of high-profile murders and abductions that took place when Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as Defence Secretary in 2005-2015. After Gotabaya Rajapaksa became President in 2019, witnesses in the Vas Gunewardane case suddenly started to “recant” testimony provided during the 2013 investigations.
Vas Gunewardane is a crooked cop closely linked to the Rajapaksa regime in general and incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in particular. Vas Gunewardane, serving a death sentence in Welikada is now one of the prison’s most privileged inmates. For nearly a year, the former CID Director has been a “Patient” at the prison hospital, together with fellow death row inmate and drug-runner MP Duminda Silva. For 19 months now, President Gotabaya has struggled to find reasons to pardon these criminals without triggering widespread public outrage.
Last Friday, the EU Parliament recognized SSP Shani Abeysekera as one of three key arbitrary detentions in Sri Lanka under the Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In a strongly worded resolution, the EU Parliament insisted that President Gotabaya either file valid charges against these persecuted individuals or release them unconditionally.
The Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration’s continued use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to persecute critics and incarcerate them without charge for prolonged periods has drawn the attention of the EU Parliament which is warning that Sri Lanka could have its coveted GSP plus trade concessions to Europe temporarily suspended. Economists fear that the suspension could strike a body-blow to Sri Lanka’s already flagging foreign reserves and tank the country’s economy. (Nimal Ratnaweera)