Easter Sunday probe: Bathiudeen brothers face 90-day detention under PTA

Rishad Bathiudeen

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday (25) protested against the arrest of its Vanni District member Rishad Bathiudeen and his brother, Riyaj in connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Rishad Bathiudeen is the leader of the All-Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), a constituent of the SJB. The ACMC leader served as a Cabinet minister under both President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2015) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019)

SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara told The Island that the latest arrests had been made close on the heels of the main Opposition alleging possible involvement of some members of the intelligence services in the carnage.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) arrested Rishad and Riyaj from their respective residences at Bauddhaloka Mawatha and Wellawatte.

DIG (Legal) Attorney-at-Law Ajith Rohana said that Bathiudeen brothers had been taken in following a joint CID-TID operation. The suspects were being interrogated on a Detention Order obtained in terms of the PTA for a period of 72 hours, he said.

Depending on the ongoing investigations, the police under the PTA could detain the suspects for further 90 days, DIG Rohana said, adding that they were among altogether 702 persons arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday carnage.

The DIG said that of those arrested 202 had been remanded and 83 held by the CID and the TID under the PTA.

The Police Spokesman said that investigators had conducted a comprehensive probe into funding of the Easter Sunday suicide bombers and a range of financial transactions that had taken place in the run up to the 2019 attacks.

Sources familiar with the high-profile investigation said the CID had quietly released Riyaj in late 2020 after declaring the police had not been able to gather sufficient evidence in respect of his alleged involvement with those who carried out Easter attacks. The CID arrested Riyaj on April 14, 2020. Riyaj’s release triggered protests within the ruling SLPP government with over 100 MPs including ministers signing a petition demanding an immediate inquiry into the unexpected development.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, intervened amidst allegations that the police were suppressing information as regards Riyaj’s involvement. The AG summoned the DIG CID, Director CID and other officers directly involved in the inquiry for discussions at his department where fresh instructions were issued in respect of the investigation.

Attorney-at-law Rushidhi Habibi on behalf of the ACMC questioned the need for law enforcement authorities to raid the former minister’s residence when he always reported to the CID when asked to do so. The lawyer questioned why the police had behaved that way during Ramadan.

Alleging that Bathiudeen was a victim of a political conspiracy, the lawyer claimed the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that probed the Easter Sunday carnage had not found anything against the former minister. The ACMC spokesman alleged that Rishad had been targeted because his party with four members in parliament and 169 in Local Government bodies backed the Opposition candidate at the 2019 presidential poll.

In a social media post just before the police took him away, Bathiudeen said that he would have come willingly if he had been asked to. The MP questioned the rationale behind over 100 policemen raiding his Bauddhaloka Mawatha residence as if they were coming to take Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Top Church spokesperson Rev Father Cyril Gamini yesterday told The Island that the Church was closely following the ongoing investigations. “We are concerned. We are really concerned. Those who suffered expect justice not a cover-up. We are closely following the investigation,” he said, adding that they were in the process of examining all available information including statements made in Parliament on the Easter carnage.”

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)