The Court of Appeal tore the police case against Shani Abeysekera to pieces in its bail order, calling the charges a sham designed to ‘prejudice and harm’ the star criminal investigator and former CID Chief by the ‘backers of convicted murderers.”
The Court slammed what it called “extraordinary delays” filing the complaint against Abeysekera and three junior officers who investigated the Mohammed Shiyam murder in 2013. Two witnesses in the trial came forward in 2020, to claim Abeysekera had coerced their testimony and fabricated evidence to implicate DIG Vas Gunewardane who was convicted of the murder by a High Court Trial-at-Bar. The case against Shani Abeysekera is being investigated by the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) which Vas Gunewardane led before he faced trial for murder.
But the Court of Appeal in its 14 page order granting bail to Abeysekera, said the delays strongly demonstrated that”the allegations against the suspect Shani Abeysekera are a result of falsification and embellishment”, and a “creature of afterthought”.
According to the Court of Appeal, complaining about Abeysekera’s conduct during a murder investigation eight years ago cost the complaint the “benefit of the advantage of spontaneity.” The Court of Appeal said the complainants had ample time and ability to make the complaint.
The delayed complaint “smacks of the introduction of a fabricated, false version and an exaggerated account or concocted story involving a set of collaborators or conspirators to unduly cause prejudice and harm to the suspect Shani Abeysekera,” the Court of Appeal said in its order.
The CA Order, written by Justice Bandula Karunaratne, said that the statements provided by witnesses who complained against Abeysekera in 2020 are contradictory to statements they had made in 2014, when the murder probe was underway.
The Court observed that the police had made a “blatant attempt to frame allegations through fabrication of false evidence” against Abeysekera, by reporting the statements of “apparent backers and supporters or collaborators of the convicted murderers” before the Magistrate’s Court of Gampaha.
The Court of Appeal said that based on the material presented to court, no credible evidence had been provided to substantiate the position that Abeysekera had committed offences under the Penal Code, and the Offensive Weapons and Explosives Act. “No credible evidence had been brought to the attention of the Court to substantiate this position or credibly establish a semblance of a prima facie case,” the Court of Appeal said, referring to the CCD Investigation against Abeysekera.
The Court order said that while Abeysekera had been in remand custody for 10 months, there was no cogent material before Court to establish that witnesses had been intimidated by the ex-CID Director.
The order also noted that evidence had been presented to court by Abeysekera’s lawyers that his health was failing.
“Considering the totality of the material placed before us, I am of the considered view that the suspect Shani Abeysekera be enlarged on bail, subject to strict conditions imposed by this Court,” the order said.
Read the Court of Appeal Order of June 16, 2021 in full here:
The witnesses came forward to complain against Abeysekera only after the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019. DIG Vas Gunewardane, the convicted murderer, is a close associate of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Colombo Telegraph learns that as Defence Secretary in 2013/2014, Rajapaksa tried hard to scuttle the Mohammed Shiyam murder probe, when Abeysekera and his team nabbed DIG Vas Gunewardane for the killing. Vas Gunewardane’s appeal is pending before a five judge bench of the Supreme Court, and the witch-hunt launched against Abeysekera is tied to attempts to have the case thrown out of court, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Damaging the credibility of Shani Abeysekera’s investigations meets a twin objective for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. For nearly two years now, the President has been struggling to justify a pardon for Duminda Silva, another convicted murderer on death row. Silva has exhausted all appeals available to him under the Sri Lankan criminal justice system. As Monitoring MP to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2010-2012, Silva had an especially intimate relationship with the current president and former defence secretary. During his time as Monitoring MP, Silva used his influence at MoD to wage war on rivals of his narcotics trafficking operation, using the Sri Lankan forces, with the blessings of then Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa Colombo Telegraph learns. Silva continues to run one of the most efficient drug-trafficking operations from within prison walls in Welikada. Since President Rajapaksa’s election in 2019, Silva has served his death row sentence in the hospital wing of the Welikada prison, where he is afforded all creature comforts.
It was Shani Abeysekera’s investigation that led to Duminda Silva’s conviction for the murder of Premachandra by a High Court Trial at Bar. If his investigations are cast into doubt and the former CID Director is tried and jailed for falsifying evidence, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will win the leverage he needs to issue a presidential pardon for Duminda Silva, without inviting a hailstorm of public outrage. A well-known drug lord in Colombo, Silva is widely unpopular among the Sri Lankan middle classes, although he continues to enjoy some grassroots support in Kolonnawa and Central Colombo areas, where his gangs run illegal narcotics. (Nimal Ratnaweera)