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Video footage shows state officials leading Mannar attack: Police

Minister Bathiudeen says he has neither met nor spoken to Mannar judge
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Prison officials, school principals and state sector workers are among those identified by police teams for being allegedly involved in the attack on Mannar courts.Criminal Investigations Department (CID) detectives and Police teams after repeatedly reviewing video footage of the attack have succeeded in identifying them, according to senior police officials.
They said statements were recorded from journalists, photographers, Grama Sevakas and lawyers who were present at the scene.

Rishad Bathiudeen leaving the Bambalapitiya mosque after Friday prayers. Pic by Susantha Liyanawatte

Rishad Bathiudeen leaving the Bambalapitiya mosque after Friday prayers. Pic by Susantha Liyanawatte

By last Wednesday, Police said, 11 persons allegedly involved in the attacks have been arrested. Since the incident, the Mannar courts have remained non-functional while lawyers continued their protests.

Minister Rishad Bathiudeen said yesterday he was not involved in the mob attack or in making alleged threats to the Magistrate. “The day in question I was at the Nomination Board meeting in Colombo making preparations for the Eastern Provincial Council.”

Minister Bathiudeen reiterated that he made no threat to the judge.“I have never seen the judge. Neither have I spoken to him in person; nor have I contacted him. As a cabinet minister I am not na´ve not to know the gravity of the crime of threatening a judge or the consequences of such an act. I respect the judiciary,” said Mr. Bathiudeen who is now facing contempt of court charges.

He declined to comment further saying it might interfere with the ongoing judicial process.The minister said that no sooner he heard of the incident than he asked President Mahinda Rajapaksa for a helicopter and reached Mannar late afternoon.
The remarks came when Police said they were investigating a complaint that the house of the Mannar Magistrate, Anthonypillai Judeson, was also attacked.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem visited the fishing village of Uppukulam where Tamil fishermen displaced from the Vidattaltivu village have been relocated. He also met Muslim leaders in Mannar and discussed measures needed to ensure that the tension between the fisher families and Muslim villages did not exacerbate.

The CID also recorded a statement from Jude Judeson.Meanwhile, lawyers and civil rights activists in Colombo, Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and other places held protests condemning the attack on the courts and the threat to the judge.

The Law and Society Trust expressing concern said in a statement: “It must be noted that an attack on a court house constitutes a most severe infringement of the independence of the judiciary. The independence of the judiciary is not a perquisite of judicial office, claimed for the personal benefit of judges but is fundamental for the impartial administration of justice according to law and is indeed an inalienable feature of the Rule of Law”.

“The Trust calls for an immediate and effective inquiry by the State into the said attack resulting in sanctions being levied against those responsible,” a statement said.The Kegalle Lawyers’ Association said they were shocked, saddened and dismayed over the recent unwarranted attempts and attacks on the judicial officers, and the attorneys-at-law and the legal system as a whole, and by the threat to the Magistrate and the mob on the court house.

Meanwhile, Mannar’s Superintendent of Police Laksiri Wijesoma in a special report to the IGP N. K. Ilangakone has stated that the demonstrators numbering about 400, including women had gathered outside the court premises blocking the main highway and causing a commotion when he arrived on the scene.

Mannar court under STF security on Friday. Pic by S.R. Lambart

Hulfstdorp lawyers protesting on Wednesday the attack on the Mannar courts

 

He states that he had ordered the demonstrators to disperse but they had ignored his call. He says that the judge then summoned him to his chambers and asked him to ensure the crowd dispersed. He had then summoned the riot squad and asked them to line up in front of the assembled crowd and once again asked the crowd to disperse. The crowd however marched towards the police line armed with poles.

About this time the judge also came out of the court premises and the crowd began to throw stones at the police and the court premises. The judge has then issued a second order to the SP to open fire on the crowd if necessary, but the SP had advised the judge against such an option and escorted him back to the court premises. Due to the firing of tear gas canisters, the crowd then began to withdraw continuing to throw stones. The police were able to arrest some 18 persons in the crowd, the report states.

Police chief Illangakone has sent the SP’s report to Gamini Senarath, Chief of Staff at the President’s Office to be forwarded to the President.ACMC General Secretary Y.L.S. Hameed told the Sunday Times, “It was a peaceful protest staged some 200 metres away from the court complex. There were women and children and they had no intention to disturb the peace of the area.”

The protesters became unruly only after the magistrate came out of the court premises and faced the crowd, he charged adding that police action also added to the chaos.“The stones were aimed at the police, not at the court premises,” he said, pointing out that the police report on the incident also had supported his claim.

Meanwhile, protests were also held in support of Minister Bathiudeen. The Mannar branch of Sri Lanka’s premier Muslim theologians’ council, the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema, has called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to appoint a commission to investigate the July 18 incidents and events that took place thereafter.

In another development the Kalmunai Lawyers Association whose members stayed away from court work in deference to the BASL executive committee meeting on July 19 said has sent a letter to the BASL secretary.

The letter said the Kalmunai Lawyers Association at a special meeting held on Tuesday unanimously resolved that an impartial inquiry should have been held to ascertain the root cause of the incident before any drastic action is contemplated against the party concerned.

Earlier, Akkaraipattu Bar Association which also said its members would abide by the BASL’s executive committee resolution expressed reservations about the BASL executive committee’s conclusion that Minister Bathiudeen was involved in the incident.

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