Missing NGO worker’s body found in partly built house

Murder suspect admits he is a government supporter
By Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

An active non-governmental organization worker based in the Puttalam district and who travelled widely carrying out relief work for victims of the conflict as well as those hit by the tsunami has disappeared after he was allegedly abducted in February last year.

Razeek’s decomposed body being unearthed

Identified as Pattani Razeek (56), it appeared he had known his abductors as he was seen getting into their vehicle - a white van - without any resistance.

As a result of many protests and complaints search operations were launched to locate the NGO worker who last served as the Managing Trustee of the Community Trust Fund (CTF), but all efforts were fruitless. However, Police were able to finally discover his body buried in a partly built house in Valaichchenai.

“My family members including myself received several telephone calls demanding a ransom of Rs. 20 million for his release. The figure was revised to Rs. 10 million and then was reduced to Rs. one million. The last call we received was in September last year,” his son Riz Khan told the Sunday Times yesterday.“The alleged abductors first inquired about the operations of the Fund and told us to get the money on behalf of our father. We declined as there were other members of the organization who had to give their consent,” he said.

He said the callers later inquired about the assets of his father and said they were willing to release his father if Rs. one million was paid.

“I told the callers we cannot raise that amount of money even if we sold our house. My father was only a retired grama niladhari. However, later we agreed to pay Rs. 900,000, but wanted to talk to our father. That never took place and we never heard from them again”, he said.

The family members had then given the Police the telephone numbers of the persons who called, enabling the Police to make a breakthrough early this month.

As a result police took into custody one Shabdeen Naushad, an employee of a vocational training institute located in Kilinochchi. The arrest came after investigators intercepted some phone calls made by the employee. He is said to have served as a co-ordinator of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.

In an anticipatory bail application filed by the suspect last year, he admitted his connection to Minister Bathiudeen and admitted that he met Razeek on the day of his disappearance and that he travelled with Minister Bathiudeen’s brother and the staff of Minister Bathiudeen in a vehicle belonging to Minister Bathiudeen’s Ministry.

He also admitted he was a Government supporter and said his arrest might affect his credibility and also the credibility of Minister Bathiudeen and affect the prospects of the Minister in the upcoming elections.

Police finally received information that Mr. Razeek was killed and buried in a partly built house in Valaichchenai. The house was owned by a relative of one of the two suspects currently in custody.
The body of Razeek was in a highly decomposed state and was sent for a DNA test to Colombo. The results of the test are due on Tuesday.

Family members of Mr. Razeek had been under pressure to fund a political campaign in the Puttalam district, but they had rejected the request. The recovery of the body has prompted a call from the UN to carry out investigations into other disappearances as well.

UNHRC wants other disappearances probed

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it hopes that investigation and prosecution into the death of prominent human rights activist Pattani Razeek whose body was exhumed on Thursday will be expedited, and that there will be similar progress in resolving the many thousands of outstanding cases of disappearance in Sri Lanka.

“We hope that investigation and prosecution of this crime will now be expedited, and that there will be similar progress in resolving the many thousands of outstanding cases of disappearance in Sri Lanka,” Ravina Shamdasani, a Spokesperson for the UNHRC in Geneva said on Friday.

Mr. Razeek, the Managing Trustee of Community Trust Fund (CTF) and a leading member of regional NGO networks, has been missing since February 11, 2010. It is only in the past few weeks that two suspects were arrested in relation to the case. The information they provided reportedly led to the discovery of the body. Now that the fate of this human rights defender has been established, it is time for an investigation to establish the truth of the circumstances of this heinous crime, and for prosecution to bring justice to the victim’s family, the UNHRC spokesperson aid.

In particular the spokesperson referred to the case of freelance journalist and cartoonist, Prageeth Ranjan Bandara Ekneligoda, who has been missing and considered ‘disappeared’ since January 2010.
“We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to expedite investigations and provide information on Mr. Ekneligoda’s whereabouts and fate,” she said.

The spokesperson also encouraged the Government to seek the assistance of the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, which has 5,653 outstanding Sri Lankan cases on its books, by inviting it to visit the country.

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