Two Habeas Corpus Applications were yesterday filed in the Court of Appeal on behalf of senior lawyer Hejaaz Hisbullah who was arrested by the CID allegedly over his links to the Easter Sunday bombers.
The two petitions were filed by the lawyer's brother and the father through Attorneys-at-Law Sanath Wijewardene and Gowry Thavarasha seeking the Court to direct the respondents to release and discharge lawyer Hejaz Hisbullah from custody /detention.
The petitioners cited Acting IGP and the Director of the CID as well as the Attorney General as respondents. The petitioners challenge, inter alia, the alleged unlawful arrest and consequent detention of the lawyer (believed to be arrested by, and currently in the custody of the Criminal Investigations Department) and seek a mandate discharging or releasing him from detention/custody.
The petitioners are seeking an Interim Order directing the respondents to release and / or discharge the corpus Hejaz Hisbullah forthwith from detention /custody until the final determination. They are asking the Court to direct the respondents to permit Attorneys-at-Law access to obtain instructions from the corpus in confidence for the purpose of prosecuting his application and / or any other proceedings before a Court of law.
The petitioners are pleading Court to grant the costs of their Applications or in the circumstances of the case grant them the exemplary costs at Court’s discretion. They state that to the best of the petitioners knowledge the Corpus was Trustee in the Trust by the name of “Save the Pearls”. The said Trust is dedicated to the welfare of orphans and/or children who are deemed to be vulnerable. They state that the Corpus had previously been questioned by officers of the Criminal Investigations Department and all times material, he had duly placed all relevant facts before the said officers with regard to the discharge of his professional duties relating to Mr. Ibrahim. They state the following took place on April 14th 2020;
a) The Corpus had received a call at around 4.00 pm purportedly from a person identifying himself as from the Ministry of Health. The said person had asked the Corpus if he withdrew cash from a specific ATM machine, to which the Corpus had responded in the affirmative.
b) The Corpus was thereafter informed to stay at his house and to expect a visit from officials of the Ministry of Health
c) The Corpus, his wife an Egyptian national and his Mother in Law accordingly stayed at home awaiting a visit from officials of the Ministry of Health.
d) Accordingly the Corpus and the family had verily believed that they had contracted Covid-19 from the ATM machine and/or any other place resulting in the said call and eventual visit.
e) At around 5.00 pm five persons including a female, had arrived at the residence of the Corpus. The Corpus had thereafter been handcuffed and asked to sit on a sofa in the house.
f) The said persons had questioned the Corpus with regard to phone numbers. The persons had read out phone numbers and they had dialed the numbers from the phone of the Corpus identifying certain numbers.
g) During the questioning one of the persons had received a call. He had proceeded out of the vicinity of the Corpus and returned. He thereafter had removed the handcuffs off the Corpus.
h) The said persons thereafter proceeded to the Law Chamber of the Corpus.
i) They had inter alia ordered the Corpus to give them access to the two case files of Mr. Ibrahim relating to two District Court cases in which the Corpus had been retained by Mr Ibrahim to appear on his behalf. The Corpus had duly obeyed the said orders and given the files to the persons.
j) The said persons had then recorded a short statement from the Corpus. His wife was ordered to place her signature on a statement written in Sinhalese which she did.
k) The Corpus was then ordered to be present at the Criminal Investigations Department on the 15th of April 2020.
l) Shortly thereafter one of the persons received a call. The said person had then informed the Corpus and his wife that the Corpus should accompany them to the Criminal Investigations Department.
m) One of the said persons accompanied the Corpus in his vehicle followed by another vehicle in which the other persons travelled.
n) At around 7.50 pm the Corpus had arrived at the house of one of his juniors Mr. Chalana Perera
o) Mr. Perera had got into the vehicle which the Corpus was driving and proceeded to the Criminal Investigations Department
p) Thereafter the Corpus, Mr. Perera and the other persons had taken the Corpus to the 4th floor of the Criminal Investigations Department.
q) Following a period of waiting the Corpus had been questioned for around half an hour.
r) Mr. Perera was thereafter informed by the Corpus that he was to be arrested.
s) No reason for his arrest was provided to the best of the petitioners knowledge.
They state that the Corpus is a well known advocate of civil and political rights including highlighting the need for due recognition of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities especially Muslims, and has in recent times been vociferous in criticizing the decision of authorities to require the mandatory cremation of persons dying of the coronavirus which is insensitive to the religious sentiments of the Muslims. They state that the said arrest and detention is mala fide and is calculated to penalise the Corpus for such activities and obstruct him from engaging in such activities. (S. S. Selvanayagam)