Nine Army Intelligence personnel who were out on bail, in connection with the abduction and murder of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda were ordered to be remanded till June 13 by Colombo Permanent High Court Trial-at-Bar yesterday.
Accordingly, Lieutenant Colonel Shammi Arjun Kumararatne, R.M.P.K. Rajapaksa alias Nadan, W. W. Priyantha Dilanjan Upasena alias Suresh, S.M. Ravindra Rupasena alias Ranji, Y.M Chaminda Kumara Abeyratne, S. M. Kanishka Gunaratne, Aiyyasami Balasubramaniyam, D.G.T Prasad Gamage and T.E.R. Pieris were remanded.
The case was taken up before the Colombo Permanent High Court Trial-at-Bar bench comprising Colombo High Court Judges Sanjeewa Morayas, Mahen Weeraman and Damith Thotawatta.
The order was issued following the evidence recorded from prosecution witness Sumathipala Suresh Kumar, who was a former member of the LTTE.
Attorney-at-Law Upul Kumarapperuma appeared for the aggrieved party and stated that an inquiry should be held into whether the accused had influenced the witness before taking evidence from the witness in this case.
Speaking on behalf of the plaintiff, Senior Deputy Solicitor General Dileep Peiris stated that the prosecution had no objection to this. He further stated that although a warrant had been issued for the witness for not appearing before the court, the witness had appeared before the court through Pulasthi PC without consulting the prosecution.
He also said that it was appropriate to inquire whether the witness had been influenced externally on these matters. Following that, the witness testified before the Court.
He said that he did not know Pradeep Eknaligoda until he went to the CID and that he had memorized a statement given to him by the CID to record statements.
The witness testified that the statement given before the Homagama Magistrate’s Court under Section 127 of the Criminal Procedure Code was given only on the instructions of the CID and that the Magistrate never read the statement to him again after giving that statement at that time.
Then the Bench asked from the defense what was the position of the defendant regarding the witness in giving contradictory evidence to the original testimony.
President’s Counsel Anil de Silva, said that there was no basis for a witness to testify in Court as the same manner in the first testimony and that the remand could have an effect on the witnesses for giving contradictory testimonies and that the defense could have argued if he had given such evidence.
He also demanded that if the court decides to remand the accused withdrawing the bail conditions, it should be done in accordance with Section 17 of the Bail Act. He also requested that special security be provided to those imprisoned as they are Army intelligence officers. He also called for attention to be paid to the fact that prisons in the country are not able to protect prisoners as previous incidents have been reported.
President’s Counsel Anuja Premaratne also said that there was no basis for a witness to testify in court in the same manner in the first testimony.
After considering the circumstances, the Bench ordered the remand of the accused and ordered the Superintendent of Prisons to keep them under special protection as they were intelligence officers.
The Attorney General had filed indictments, comprising 17 charges under Section 450(4) of the Criminal Procedure Act No 15 of 1979 as amended by Act No 21 of 1988 in the High Court against nine army intelligence officers attached to the Giritale Army camp in connection with the abduction and murder of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda.
The Attorney General had named Lieutenant Colonel Shammi Arjun Kumararatne, R.M.P.K. Rajapaksa alias Nadan, W. W. Priyantha Dilanjan Upasena alias Suresh, S.M. Ravindra Rupasena alias Ranji, Y.M Chaminda Kumara Abeyratne, S. M. Kanishka Gunaratne, Aiyyasami Balasubramaniyam, D.G.T Prasad Gamage and T.E.R. Pieris was accused in the case for abduction charges.