The case was taken up before the bench comprising Colombo High Court Judges Damith Thotawatte, Amal Ranaraja and Navaratne Marasinghe.
The Bench directed the Commissioner General of Prisons to ensure that the accused were produced before the Court every day during the trial and further directed that steps be taken to verify their appearance in Court through electronic technology if it is difficult to do so.
The Bench also directed the President of the Bar Association to submit to Court a list of attorneys who know the Tamil language for appearing on behalf of the accused who are not represented by an Attorney.
The 15th accused in the case, Mohammad Hanifa Zainul Abdeen, was not produced before the Court by the prison authorities as he had been infected with COVID-19 virus and Indictments were served on the remaining 24 accused.
Additional Solicitor General Haripriya Jayasundara appeared on behalf of the Attorney General and informed the Court that “this case is a historic case.
The indictment on which this is based is a large indictment consisting of 23,270 charges, something never heard before in our history. Investigators, including the CID, worked hard to produce the indictments. Because of their skill, we were able to expedite the investigation. We also enlisted the help of American and Australian investigative agencies for certain investigations. We will take action to bring to justice those responsible for such activities, regardless of race or religion, to make Sri Lanka a terrorism-free country.”
The Bench then inquired whether there would be any legal representation for the accused in the case, and their attorneys told the Court that only 14 of the accused had private lawyers.
Ten accused including main accused Naufar Moulavi in the case, have stated that they do not have a personal attorney in Court and they have requested the court to appoint an attorney conversant in the Tamil language at Government expense.
Accordingly, the bench panel directed the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to submit to Court a list of Attorneys conversant in the Tamil language to represent the accused.
As the charge sheets in this case have been submitted in Sinhala, the 17 main accused in the case, including Naufar Moulavi, requested the Court to provide them with a Tamil translation of the charge sheet while accused Mohamed Akram Ahakkam has also requested its English translation.
After considering all the circumstances, the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar directed the prosecution to take steps to translate the charge sheets in this case into Tamil and English languages as requested by the accused and the Court directed the accused to obtain the indictment from the Registrar’s Office within a month from today if it is difficult to carry them today due to the large number of pages included in the indictments in the case.
Also, as there are more than 23,000 charges in this case, it will take at least six months if they are to be read to each of the accused in open Court, said the presiding judge of the Trial-at-Bar, Damith Thotawatte. He also directed the Additional Solicitor General to look into the matter, suggesting that it would be possible to save time by selecting the relevant charges separately for each accused and reading them in Open Court.
The case will be taken up again on November 23.
The Indictments have been filed in connection with eight attacks on Kochchikade St. Anthony’s Church, Katuwapitiya St.Sebastian’s Church, The Kingsbury Hotel, Shangri-La Colombo, Cinnamon Grand Colombo, Batticaloa Zion Church and Dehiwala Tropical Inn against the 25 accused.
Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed Nawfar alias Naufar Moulavi, Mohammed Saribu Adam Lebbe (Abu Hadik), Hayathu Mohammed Milhan (Abu Zillah), Mohammed Ibrahim Sadiq Abdullah (Abu Umar), Mohammed Ebrahim Abdul Haq (Abu Fala) , Mohammad Anwar Mohammad Riskan (Abu Tariq), Mohammad Mansoor Mohammad Sanasdeen (Abu Misan), Abdul Manaf Mohammad Piridavus, Mohammad Ramish Mohammad Zarik, Abdul Latif Mohammad Safi (Safi Moulavi / Abu Furqan), Husseinul Rizvi Mohammad Kahir Samir, Mohammad Zawheer Mohammad Hassan (Abu Dawood), Mohammad Iftikhar Mohammad Insaf (Abu Mohammad), Rashid Mohamed Ibrahim, Mohammed Hanifa Zainul Abdin (Abu Hina), Mohamed Mustafa Mohamed Haris (Abu Nanjiar), Yassin Bawa Abdul Rauf, Rasik Raza Hussain, Kachchi Mohamed Jasmine, Zainul Abdeen Mohamed Jaseen, Mohamed Mustafa Mohamed Rizwan, Meera Saheed Mohamed Nafli (Abu Sana), Mohamed Amin Ayantullah, Mohamed Ansar Deen Hilmi and Mohamed Akram were indicted by the Attorney General in the High Court.
The indictments were filed against accused under the Prevention of Terrorism Act comprising 23, 270 charges including charges of conspiracy, preparation, aiding and abetting, collection of explosives and weapons, murder and attempted murder. A case will be filed separately against former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and former IGP Pujith Jayasundara for their negligence of duty in connection with the attacks.