Inside factory where terrorists plotted the Easter Sunday attacks
Wellampitiya Police OIC Gamini Senarath Hewawithana had complained to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) early this week demanding an inquiry against Colombo Magistrate Court Judge Priyantha Liyanage over the release on bail of nine employees of the copper factory in Wellampitiya.
It was reported that the factory, which belonged to the Cinnamon Grand suicide bomber Inshaf Ahamed, has been used to manufacture the explosives which were used in the April 21st Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. Nine out of the ten suspects arrested on April 21, were remanded till May 6 and granted bail on two sureties of Rs. 500, 000 each due to insufficient evidence. However, Wellampitiya Police OIC has complained to the JSC, that despite objection from the police, the Magistrate has allegedly acted in a biased manner by taking his own decision to release the suspects.
The article is written on the complaint filed by the Wellampitiya OIC to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).
How the search operation was launched
The OIC received a call from the Director of the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) SP Udaya Hemantha on the night of Easter Day, ordering him to search the copper factory in Wellampitiya. After locating the factory, the OIC along with several other officers from the Wellampitiya Police visited the location and waited till CCD Director Hemantha arrived at the scene. The team of police personnel thereafter surrounded the factory following orders of the CCD Director and arrested 10 suspicious individuals among whom were 8 Muslims and a Sinhalese. Another worker identified as a suspect was also taken into the custody of the CCD and the 9 others were taken to the Wellamptiya police station for questioning. Meanwhile, another suspect arrested by the STF on April 22, for having close connections with the Cinnamon Grand bomber, was also handed over to the
Charges filed Against Suspects
On the following day (April 22), the ten suspects were produced in court and the police requested the court to remand them in order to obtain telephone records for further investigations. Acceding to the request, the court ordered the suspects to be remanded till May 6.
When the case was taken up on May 6 before Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage at Colombo Magistrate’s Court, the Wellampitiya Police submitted a further report on the progress of the investigations relating to the arrested copper factory workers. Preliminary investigations caried out by the Police had found that the suspects had used 2-8 sim cards and that the suspects had an obvious connection with the Easter Sunday attacks. This was said in the court. Preliminary investigations have found that several suspects who were workers of the factory had travelled during the recent past to various places.
According to the telephone records, it was found that one of the suspects has had several telephone conversations with the factory owner and the Cinnamon Grand Hotel suicide bomber Inshaf Ahamed. It was also found that the monthly salary of the 10th suspect arrested by the Special Task Force (STF) was Rs.30, 000 and the monthly rent payment of his house is also the same amount.
The police version of what happened in court
Nine out of the ten suspects arrested on April 21, were remanded till May 6 and granted bail on two sureties of Rs. 500, 000 each due to insufficient evidence. It was alleged that the workers were released because the Wellampitiya Police failed to mention the offences the suspects were alleged to have committed.
In the JSC complaint, the OIC alleged that even when the above mentioned charges and findings of the preliminary investigation had been presented before the court, the magistrate disregarded the facts and statements submitted by the police by releasing the suspects, who had been arrested on April 21 by the police.
Hewawitharana further alleged that the verbal and written objections of the police had also not been mentioned in the case file compiled by the magistrate. Therefore, attorney Don Wasantha who appeared on behalf of one of the suspects has submitted an affidavit to the JSC stating that the Magistrate made the decision despite objection from the police.
Filing the B Report, the Wellampitiya Police have also informed the Magistrate that releasing the suspects would create public unrest and therefore it was better to keep them detained pending investigations.
"One of the suspects has had several telephone conversations with the factory owner and the Cinnamon Grand Hotel suicide bomber Inshaf Ahamed"
Parallel to the police investigations, Terrorist Investigations Department (TID), Navy Intelligence Division and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) had also initiated separate investigations into the alleged involvement of the suspects to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. Therefore, the Wellampitiya Police Officer requested the court to keep the suspects in remand owing to the fact that the Police, CID, TID and Navy Intelligence investigations into the case are still ongoing. The police referred to the Section 14 of the Bail Act (No. 30 of 1997) when requesting the court to keep the suspects in custody.
Reasons for which court may refuse bail or cancel a subsisting order for release14.
(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the preceding provisions of this Act, whenever a person suspected or accused of being concerned in committing or having committed a bailable or non-bailable offence, appears, is brought before or surrenders to the court having jurisdiction, the court may refuse to release such person on bail or upon application being made in that behalf by a police officer, and after issuing notice on the person concerned and hearing him personally or through his attorney-at-law, cancel a subsisting order releasing such person on bail if the court has reason to believe:”
(b) that the particular gravity of, and public reaction to, the alleged offence may give rise to public disquiet.
The SIU decided on May 9 to launch an investigation into the matter where the court granted bail to the workers. It was alleged that police may have erred by not filing the case under Prevention of Terrorism Act because the investigations were yet to reach that level. He said that was why they requested more time from the magistrate to complete the inquiry.
The complainant criticized that the officers of the Wellampitiya Police even had to testify before the SIU over the bailing out incident over the investigation initiated against them. The residents in Wellampitiya were still protesting outside the police station against the court decision. Due to the current situation, the police face difficulty in maintaining law and order in the area.
Last week, police Media Spokesperson SP Ruwan Gunasekara said disciplinary action would be taken against the personnel held responsible, no sooner the report from the SIU was produced.