Under heavy pressure to deliver justice for the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings in April 2019, the Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime made a pre-dawn arrest of former Leader of the All Ceylon Muslim Congress Rishard Bathiudeen on Saturday (24).
At 2.33AM on April 24, 2021, the ACMC Leader tweeted that the CID had been outside his residence since 1.30AM trying to arrest him without charge. “The CID has been standing outside my house in Boudhaloka Mawatha since 1.30 am today attempting to arrest me without a charge. They have already arrested my brother. I have been in Parliament, and have cooperated with all lawful authorities until now. This is unjust” Bathiudeen tweeted shortly before he was arrested.
At 5.30AM the Police Spokesman said the Bathiudeen brothers had been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for aiding and abetting the Easter Sunday bombers.
The former Industries Minister’s brother Riyadh Bathiudeen was also arrested from his residence in Wellawatte late Friday (23).
The arrests come amidst the holy season of Ramadan, when Muslims are engaged in fasting and prayer. Rishard Bathiudeen was likely arrested shortly before Sahoor, the pre-sunrise meal taken by Muslims before they begin a 14 hour fast.
The Government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came under severe criticism from the head of the Catholic church in Sri Lanka no less, after the CID released Riyadh Bathiudeen on bail last year.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has grown increasingly antagonistic towards the Rajapaksa Government he worked hard to usher into power, over its failure to bring the Easter Sunday attackers to book. The Cardinal was visibly enraged by the release of Riyadh Bathiudeen from CID custody in 2020, shortly before the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Since then, he has been publicly hinting at a conspiracy at the highest levels of the Government to conceal the identity of the ‘true masterminds’ of the Easter bombings. The Cardinal recently had to walk back his remarks about the attacks being politically motivated, and nothing to do with Islamic extremism – a direct swipe at the ruling Government that swept to power on the back of the attacks. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s remarks have coincided with continuous allegations and exposes by opposition MPs about the true conspirators behind the Easter bombings, connections deep inside the Sri Lankan state security establishment.
For his most recent expose in Parliament, Opposition MP Harin Fernando was summoned to the CID. Sources told Colombo Telegraph that moves were afoot to arrest Fernando under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act which could see him jailed for six months without trial. Attorney Hejaaz Hizbullah was detained under the PTA for nearly a year and finally charged under a totally different law.
The Bathiudeens were investigated in connection with their ties to the Ibrahim family in particular. The wealthy Pettah spice trader whose two sons turned suicide bombers, was closely associated with many politicians. Bathiudeen, as Minister of Industries, allowed waste copper material available at a statutory corporation under his Ministry to be transported to the Ibrahim’s copper factory in Wellampitiya, police investigations found. Questions were raised at the time about whether copper originating at the Ministry of Industries had been used to create the bombs that were detonated on April 21, 2019.
However, for two years, CID investigations into the Bathuideen connection never went further. Bathiudeen has insisted that he and his family were innocent of wrongdoing. (By Chinthika De Silva)