The Attorney General has prepared indictments against nine army personnel on charges of kidnapping and conspiring to murder journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda between January 25 and 27, 2010.
The AG has requested the Chief Justice to appoint a Trail-at-Bar in the Homagama High Court under the section 450(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, considering the public interest and international appeal, in this case, AG's coordinating officer Nishara Jayaratne told the Daily Mirror.
The accused are - Lieut. Colonel Shammi Arjun Kumararatne, R.M.P.K. Rajapaksa alias Nathan, W.V. Priyantha Dilanjan Upasena alias Suresh, Seneviratne Mudiyanselage Ravindra Rupasena alias Ranji, Yapa Mudiyanselage Chaminda Kumara Abeyratne, Seneviratne Mudiyanselage Kanishka Gunaratne, Aiyasami Balasubramaniam, Dangaha Gamaralage Tharanga Prasad Gamage and T.E.R. Peiris.
According to the prosecution, the following details have been revealed so far in the incident.
The first complaint on the disappearance of journalist Eknaligoda was made to the Homagama Police on January 25, 2010. Although investigations were carried out by both the Homagama Police and the Colombo Crime Division, they could not be completed for some reason. Subsequently, the investigation was taken over by the CID in 2015 and concluded it recently.
According to the evidence revealed during the investigation, Mr. Eknaligoda had openly supported the common presidential candidate at the presidential election which was held on January 26, 2010 and that he had criticised the then president Mahinda Rajapaksa by focusing on corruption allegations against him and the family, in a way that implied support for the common candidate’s election campaign.
The investigations revealed that Mr. Eknaligoda had disappeared on January 24, 2010.
According to the prosecution, after 2009, the 3rd Army Regiment in Girithale Army Camp was used to collect intelligence data and monitor the terrorist activities in the country. Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Shammi Kumararatne, and 12 other personnel comprising 400 officers were on duty at the camp at that time.
According to the investigation, nine LTTE members had been kept in this camp initially for interrogation in connection with terrorist activities.
In May 2009, a former LTTE member, Sumathipala Suresh Kumar, alias Thavendran ‘Murali’, had surrendered to the Army. The investigations had revealed that the Army had then used ‘Murali’ to take some phone calls to Mr. Eknaligoda in expectation of collecting data regarding Mr. Eknaligoda’s activities during the presidential election.
Subsequent to these phone conversations, the Army had revealed that Mr. Eknaligoda would support a certain candidate in particular.
On the day that Mr. Eknaligoda disappeared, he had taken his last phone call to one Nandana Weeraratne between 8.00 and 8.30 p.m. asking him to send a cab to Battaramulla Koswatta area because he had visited a friend in Koswatta that night.
The investigation revealed that on the same day around 8.00 p.m., second suspect Priyantha Rajapaksa had informed former LTTE member, ‘Murali’, that he had met Mr. Eknaligoda. This phone conversation was later confirmed by the CID with communication details with the service providers.
After the alleged kidnap of Eknaligoda, he had been taken from Battaramulla to Girithale Army Camp on January 25, 2010, between 1.00 am and 1.30 a.m.
The presence of all the nine suspects on this day at the Girithale Camp was confirmed by the CID through communication details obtained from service providers in that area.
The CID had obtained a statement from an LTTE member named, Edirimanasingham Arichchandiran, who was present at the Girithale Camp when Mr. Eknaligoda was allegedly kidnapped and brought into the camp.
This LTTE member had revealed that Mr. Eknaligoda’s condition was terrible as he was kept in a cell where he could not attend to his sanitation.
However, the most important witness, in this case, was an army officer named, Jayasundara Mudiyanselage Ranbanda, who was also part of that group of intelligence and army officials at the Girithale Camp.
According to the prosecution, ‘Ranbanda’, has recently delivered a statement under the section 127 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in a way of a confession in expectation of becoming a crown witness over this case.
‘Ranbanda’ had revealed that Mr. Eknaligoda was time to time questioned by the suspects taking him outside the cell at the Girithale Camp. Eknaligoda was tied with a cloth over his eyes when he was interrogated by the suspects most of the time, but at times the cloth was removed and was on a position to identify the people who were questioning him said ‘Ranbanda’.
According to the Crown witness, this revelation of suspects’ identity to Mr. Eknaligoda could have led the suspects to conspire and murder the renowned journalist.
‘Ranbanda’ has revealed that after a day of interrogation, suspects Priyantha Rajapaksa and Ravindra Rupasena had tied a cloth over Eknaligoda’s face and had taken away him from the Camp next morning saying that Eknaligoda will be handed over to Lieutenant Colonel Kumararatne.
‘Ranbanda’ had testified that he had heard a vehicle leaving the Girithale Camp in that morning and after that, he never saw Mr. Eknaligoda at the Camp.
The investigation has revealed through communication details obtained from the towers of the area that, suspects Lieutenant Colonel Kumararatne, Ravindra Rupasena, Kanishka Gunaratne, and Prasad Gamage had left that morning from the camp and went to Adalachchena and Akkaraipaththu areas.
The investigation has also revealed that, after four months to this incident, on the instructions of Major Peiris, all the documents and books relating to the records of intelligence activities happened at the Girithale Camp had been taken to his custody and allegedly all the other documents of the camp had been destroyed.
According to the Attorney General’s Department, all the nine suspects will face indictments in Homagama High Court on 17 counts for the following reasons including the murder charge.
*‘Kidnapping or abducting Mr. Eknaligoda with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine him’ (Section 356 of the Penal Code),
*abetment to the kidnap (Section 102 of the Penal Code),
*Conspiracy to kidnapping (Section 113a of PC)
*Unlawful assembly with a common object to commit a crime (Section 138,140 and 146 of the Penal Code)
* Liability for act done by several persons namely the 1st to 8th suspects, in furtherance of common intention (Section 32 of the Penal Code)
*Abetment (102) charges against Ninth suspect, T.E.R. Peiris over the kidnapping.
* Wrongfully keeping a kidnapped person against all suspects (Section 146,359 of the Penal Code.
*The charge of Murder of Eknaligoda for all the suspects (Section 296 of the Penal Code)
(Shehan Chamika Silva)