Former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera will spend another three weeks in prison after a Judge of the Court of Appeal recused himself when his revision application came up for inquiry at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday (19).
Lawyers for Abeysekera, who has been imprisoned since July 2020, filed a revision application against the rejection of bail by the Gampaha High Court.
Abeysekera’s lawyers filed an urgent motion pleading with the court to take the former CID director’s case up for inquiry on an urgent basis despite the limited function of the courts due to the surge of Covid-19 cases in the country.
The case came up for inquiry in the Court of Appeal before Justices Bandula Karunaratna and P. Kumararatnam at 10AM on Wednesday. At this time, the court was informed that Justice P. Kumararatnam wished to recuse himself from hearing Abeysekera’s case.
With only one judge available to hear the inquiry, Abeysekera’s revision application could not be taken up.
Appearing for the Attorney General and the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD), Additional Solicitor General Rohantha Abeysooriya said that the AG’s Department was still studying the matter.
Attorney at Law Viran Corea appearing as Counsel for Abeysekera urged the AG to act fairly since many dates had been given and agreed to by the petitioner for the filing objections, but to date no objections had been filed.
Since justice was being denied to Abeysekera because of the delays, lawyers for the former CID Director said he was making an application to court to prevent the AG from delaying matters further.
Shani Abeysekera was arguably Sri Lanka’s finest criminal investigator, sometimes referred to as Sri Lanka’s Sherlock Holmes, his lawyers told Court. Abeysekera’s investigations had led to successful convictions against several criminal masterminds, including an assassination attempt against a Head of State.
Lawyers for the jailed sleuth pointed out that the CCD was bringing a case of fabricated evidence against Abeysekera to help DIG Vaas Gunawardena to get his conviction overturned on appeal at the Supreme Court.
DIG Vaas Gunewardane was convicted and sentenced to death by a High Court Trial at Bar for the murder of Businessman Mohamed Shiyam in 2013. DIG Vaas Gunewardane who once led the CCD that is now investigating Abeysekera, was exposed for running a contract killing squad using officers from his division and even his own son. Details revealed at trial emerged that Vaas Gunewardane’s mercenary killing squad had earned Rs 10 million for the murder from Shiyam’s business rivals. Abeysekera and his men at the CID investigated the case, leading to a successful prosecution against the former top cop by the Attorney General.
After Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidency in November 2019, witnesses who had testified against Vaas Gunewardane at trial suddenly recanted their testimonies and filed complaints that then CID ASP Shani Abeysekera had coerced their statements to implicate DIG Vaas Gunewardane. Vaas Gunewardane was also found guilty of threatening Abeysekera and his detectives during the murder investigation and sentenced to five years RI by the Colombo High Court in 2018.
Counsel for Abeysekera told the Court of Appeal on Wednesday that what was happening to their client was an abuse of authority by criminal elements, and the former CID director was a victim. Abeysekera’s life was in grave danger because he had several health complications and was nearly 60 years old, his lawyers told Court. Medical reports had even laid bare that Abeysekera had suffered a heart attack because of the way he was handled in custody after he contracted Covid-19, the lawyers said. His compromised health makes the former CID Director vulnerable to infection in an overcrowded prison system, they argued.
Counsel Viran Corea urged the court to act, to protect the safety of Sri Lanka’s finest investigator who had been reduced to a helpless victim by a malicious design of criminals and enemies who were working in cohort.
The lawyers said he was objecting strongly to further delays in the matter and requested an early date for the case to be taken up for inquiry and order.
The case has been refixed for hearing on June 4, before Justices Bandula Karunaratne and Gurusinghe, even if courts continued to function only on a restricted basis. The Attorney General has been given a deadline of May 28 to file objections against the application made by Abeysekera’s lawyers. The Court has also called for a report on Abeysekera’s current medical condition, in view of the seriousness of the concerns for his safety.
Abeysekera is being denied access to his family and no one can verify his safety and well-being inside prison walls, his lawyers pleaded.
Viran Corea with Thilini Vidanagamage instructed by Gowry Shangari Thavarasha appeared for Abeysekara. Additional Solicitor General Rohantha Abeysooriya with Deputy Solicitor General Shanil Kularatne appeared for the CID and AG.
Ironically several serving judges on the Court of Appeal are AG’s Department veterans and know of the integrity and meticulousness of Abeysekera’s work as a sleuth. After years of hunting criminals, Abeysekera and his family live in a 500 square foot flat in Elvitigala Mawatha. The former CID Director was fondly known by senior police officers as a straight-as-an-arrow detective. (By Chinthika De Silva)