Prominent attorney at law Hejaz Hisbullah has been arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department in connection with the Easter bombings in April 2019 the police spokesman said. CID officials went to the lawyer’s home and handcuffed him on April 14, Colombo Telegraph learns. Hisbullah is currently in CID custody but it is not certain if he is being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
A message from the lawyer’s family following his arrest said that over the years, Mr Hisbullah had engaged in his professional duties, representing a wide range of clients, including the challenge to the dissolution of Parliament, the Golden Key cases as well as other cases relating to fundamental rights violations. “In the course of his professional work and as a citizen he has on numerous occasions challenged and called into question decisions of people in political authority. He is categorical that he has never been concerned in any way in any terrorist or extremist activity. He has never supported terror organizations in thought or in action. Mr. Hizbullah has always condemned all acts of racism, extremism and injustice from whatever quarter and has always promoted communal and religious harmony,” the message from his family circulated on social media said.
On 14th April 2020, officers of the Criminal Investigation Department arrested Mr. Hejaaz Hizbullah, Attorney-at-Law. He is presently being questioned by the CID. He is involved in many organizations which work towards the betterment of the people of Sri Lanka. Mr. Hizbullah is of the firm view that his arrest is illegal and arbitrary and has been done for collateral purposes, with the intention of stifling dissent. To our knowledge a thorough search was done of his premises and belongings and there has been no material found to incriminate him in any manner. Mr. Hizbullah intends to fully co-operate with the investigators and believes that he will be able to clarify matters in respect of which his explanation is sought. Today a letter was handed over to the CID to grant his Attorneys-at-Law access to him, which is necessary to vindicate his rights. It is imperative that whatever investigation takes place, that it is done independently and impartially. He remains confident that eventually truth will prevail. Members of the family of Mr. Hejaaz Hizbullah
Hisbullah shot to fame when he represented Ratnajeevan Hoole, a member of the independent Elections Commission of Sri Lanka who intervened in the fundamental rights petitions filed against former President Maithripala Sirisena’s illegal dissolution of parliament during the 2018 coup attempt. Hisbullah made powerful submissions on behalf of Dr Hoole during the charged Supreme Court hearings that resulted in the highest court issuing an interim order against Sirisena’s illegal dissolution. The interim order paved the way for Parliament to meet and vote three times to remove Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister.
The young lawyer has been a strong rights advocate, most recently appearing for Dr Mohammed Shafi who was incarcerated for months after being falsely accused of sterilising Sinhalese women at a government hospital in Kurunegala. CID investigations into the allegations found a carefully orchestrated plot to persecute the Muslim doctor comprising several high ranking police officers, a magistrate and the director of the Government hospital who was an ardent nationalist and Rajapaksa supporter. Analysts believe that the entire Sterilisation conspiracy which exploded following the April 2019 Easter Sunday attacks were aimed at inflaming hatred and mistrust against the Muslim community in a bid to shore up support for the SLPP at the presidential election a few months down the line.
The arrest of the prominent attorney has been met with complete silence from the Bar Association of Sri Lanka so far. Headed by President’s Counsel Kalinga Indatissa the BASL which intervened in many matters during the Yahapalanaya regime including in matters unrelated to the association like the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant has meekly accepted the abuse of power, overreach and illegal diktats of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration even when they have concerned legal and judicial matters.
The BASL which filed action against President Sirisena for pardoning the Royal Park killer Shramantha Jayamaha did not so much as issue a statement when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa used the COVID19 pandemic distraction to pardon the Mirusuvil murderer, an army officer who was convicted of killing eight Tamil civilians in 2000 including a 5 year old boy. The conviction was affirmed and upheld by a five judge bench of the Supreme Court and legal experts said the pardon was a slap in the face of the judiciary and the Attorney General’s department which successfully prosecuted the case. Other slights against members of the legal fraternity and the judiciary by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration have also been ignored entirely by the BASL.
Colombo Telegraph learns that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was under pressure to crackdown on Hisbullah and others who fought against the persecution of members of the Muslim community after the Easter Attacks unleashed waves of violence and discrimination against the minority community. The sterilisation saga conspirators, including Dr Channa Jayasumana and the Director of the Kurunegala Teaching hospital Sarath Weerabandara are pushing the President to act against those who secured Dr Shafi’s freedom and debunked the allegations against the Muslim doctor Colombo Telegraph learns. With his eyes on the parliamentary election, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has used the three week curfew to mobilise his television networks to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment while the country combats the corona virus pandemic. The Government and public officials have gone the extra mile to demonise Muslims as being the cause of the spread of the disease in Sri Lanka. Simultaneously the President is also seeking to jumpstart prosecutions against those involved in the April 2019 Easter bombings to keep the issue top of mind for voters in a general election. Arresting Muslim suspects will also allow the President to retain his rabidly Sinhala Nationalist base and keep his margins of victory in the parliamentary election strong. (by Chamika Madiwake)