The Colombo Special Trial-at-Bar today served indictments on nine army officials over the allegations of ‘kidnapping and conspiring to murder’ journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda during a time between January 25 to 27, 2010.
The Special Trial-at-Bar comprising Judges Sampath Abeykoon, Sampath Wijeyratne and Gihan Kulatunga subsequently released the accused on previous bail conditions as the prosecution did not object on bail because the accused have not so far violated the previous bail conditions (during the magisterial inquiry by the HC)
However, the Court imposed a travel ban on the accused and ordered to surrender the passports to the court.
Accused are Lieutenant 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 Balasubramaniyam, Dangaha Gamaralage Tharanga Prasad Gamage and T.E.R. Peiris.
Earlier the AG has requested the Chief Justice to appoint a Trail-at-Bar in Homagama High Court under the section 450(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, considering the public interest and international appeal over this case.
DSG Dileepa Peiris and DSG Sudharshana de Silva appeared for the prosecution.
The AG has filed the indictments on following counts against the accused.
'Kidnapping or abducting Mr. Eknaligoda with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine him’ (Section 356 of the Penal Code), Abatement 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),
Abatement (102) charges against a ninth suspect, T.E.R. Peiris over the kidnapping, Wrongfully keeping a kidnapped person against all suspects (Section 146,359 of the Penal Code and the charge of murder of Eknaligoda for all the suspects (Section 296 of the Penal Code)
The case was postponed for December 18, 2019.
According to the prosecution following details have been revealed so far over the incident.
The first complaint of the disappearance of Journalist Eknaligoda was received by the Homagama police on January 25, 2010. Though the investigations had been carried out by both the Homagama police and the Colombo Crime Division, the investigators could not conclude the inquiry for some reason. Subsequently, the investigation was taken over solely by the Criminal Investigation Department and concluded it recently.
According to the evidence revealed during the investigation, Mr. Eknaligoda had openly supported the common presidential candidate in the last presidential election which was held on January 26, 2010. It was revealed from the investigation that he had mockingly criticised then President Mahinda Rajapaksa by stressing on corruption allegations against then him and the family, in a way that impliedly favoured the common candidate’s election campaign.
The investigation revealed that Mr. Eknaligoda had reportedly disappeared on January 24, 2010.
According to the prosecution, after 2009, the 3rd Army regiment in the Girithale Army Camp was utilised to collect intelligence data and monitor the terrorist activities in the country. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Shammi Kumararatne and 12 other main officers 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 the interrogation over alleged terrorist activities.
In May 2009, a former LTTE member, Sumathipala Suresh Kumar alias Thavendran ‘Murali’ had surrendered the Army. The investigation had revealed that the Army had then used this ‘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 around 8.00-8.30 p.m. asking him to send a cab to Battaramulla Koswatta area as Mr. Eknaligoda had visited a friend in Koswatta at that night.
The investigation has revealed that, on the same day around, 8.00 p.m., the second suspect Priyantha Rajapaksa had informed LTTE former 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, around 1.00-1.30 a.m.
The presence of all the nine suspects on this day at the Girithale Camp has been confirmed by the CID through communication details obtained from the towers of the 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 cell where he could not satisfy even his sanitary purposes willfully.
However, the most important witness of 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 of 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 times, but on several occasions, the cloth was removed and Eknaligoda 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.
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.