No proof to link Dr. Shafi to criminal activities: Allegations based on speculation fuelled by media - CID | Sunday Observer

No proof to link Dr. Shafi to criminal activities: Allegations based on speculation fuelled by media - CID

Forty days after Dr. Seigu Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital was detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), evidence gathered by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) showed that the allegations of forcible sterilization by the senior medical officer were based on speculation fuelled by media reports.

This week, the Kurunegala Magistrate was told that there was no proof to link Dr. Shafi to the criminal activities he was famously accused of. In a damning revelation the CID, presenting its over 200-page report, implied that the case against the Senior House Officer (SHO) was in fact fabricated.

Dr. Shafi was dragged into a hailstorm of accusations when, last month, a Sinhalese newspaper published a lead story claiming a ‘Thowheed Jama’ath’ doctor in Kurunegala had illegally sterilised 4,000 ‘Sinhala’ mothers. Prof. Channa Jayasumana attached to the University of Rajarata linked the article to Dr. Shafi drawing much hate from aggravated social media users. Soon the story became of national interest.

The accused doctor was arrested by the Kurunegala police despite Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekera denying the allegations made by the newspaper article, and said no complaints of that nature were made against Dr. Shafi. Police then called the public to lodge complaints against the doctor. Complaints were recorded from over 1,000 mothers at the hospital.

However, Magistrate’s Court heard that the CID has recorded statements from 615 women who came forward to complain against Dr. Shafi, and of them only 147 had cases that need to be further investigated as they failed to conceive after the caesarian delivery.

The hysterosalpingography (HSG) testing was recommended to see if their fallopian tubes were crushed by the doctor as accused. The CID sought a court order to carry out the test at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Castle Street Hospital for Women and De Soysa Maternity Hospital.

Presenting evidence ASP Tissera said six VOGs, 12 assisting doctors, 70 nurses and 18 members of the minor staff were also questioned during the probe. None of the hospital staff has made allegations against Dr. Shafi’s conduct.

The ASP has also personally witnessed a caesarian section and told in courts that it is highly unlikely for Dr. Shafi to carry out an illegal sterilization without the rest of the medical team noticing.

It was also revealed that Kurunegala Police DIG Kithsiri Jayalath had leaked the story to the controversial journalist saying that the allegations against Dr. Shafi were only ‘rumours’ and the said journalist built the newspaper’s lead story for that day from there. Dr. Shafi was thus detained for his alleged connections with terrorist organizations and acquiring property from funds obtained by them, in order to prevent a clash between Muslim and Tamil communities, and over information that he would escape custody.

The CID stated no prior information was obtained by the Kurunegala police regarding his connections to terrorist organizations, and therefore his detention was baseless. Also, it was the duty of the police to provide security to ensure peace if there was a threat of a clash, and a suspect can only be detained under reasonable suspicion that he would escape arrest.

Meanwhile, the court heard that the Kurunegala Police also provided a phony report to the CID that stated that there were complaints made against Dr. Shafi before the newspaper article was published. CID found that there were no such complaints recorded.

The court also heard that SP Mahinda Dissanayake of the Kurunegala Division has backdated a statement by a female doctor thereby falsifying the reports given to the CID during the investigations. Therefore, there was not sufficient evidence to take Dr. Shafi into custody. The doctor’s statement, made regarding an incident at Dambulla Base Hospital, was used to detain Dr. Shafi. CID claimed that SP Dissanayake was working outside his area of jurisdiction by detaining the doctor who was in Kurunegala.

Also, before accusing the doctor of his connections to a terrorism group the Kurunegala police has not checked with the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), CID, the tri-forces or any other security agency as usually practiced. ASP Tissera went on to say that when Dr. Shafi’s number was checked against a log of numbers of people suspected to have or have links to terrorists’ groups, it was found he has not contacted any of these numbers.

The CID said, therefore, Dr. Shafi cannot be held in detention and that it will seek approval to lift the Detention Order.

The hearing also saw the likes of Athuraliye Rathana Thera, Kurunegala Teaching Hospital’s Director Dr. A. M. S. Weera Bandara and Deputy Director Dr. Chandana Kendangamuwa backed with their legal team accusing the CID of being partial towards the accused doctor during their investigations. The CID retorted that to date it was not accused of partiality and had no intention to do so during Dr. Shafi’s investigation. Earlier, the GMOA of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital called for a presidential commission to probe into Dr. Shafi’s case.

The team opposed the HSG testing claiming that it would cause physical harm to the mothers who undergo the test.

Making submissions at the open court Dr. Weera Bandara said the HSG testing will only cause more harm to the mothers, and modern technologies should be used to investigate further into the case.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer he said the x-ray that is carried out during the testing will cause secondary sub-fertility ‘again and again’. He also said the CID report consisted only of the issues in the fallopian tube, and there needs to be a probe into side effects of Dr. Shafi’s ‘rough procedures’ to the ‘uterus’ of a mother.

Dr. Shafi has already filed a Fundamental Rights petition in court against his arrest. His wife was not present during the hearing fearing security threats. Dr. Shafi’s family fled from their hometown after the newspaper article fueled by racism offended the public.

The case will be taken up again on July 11.

FR petition details plot to frame doctor

By Anurangi Singh and Aanya Wipulasena

A Fundamental Rights petition filed in the Supreme Court by Dr Shafi Shihabdeen details a stunning and elaborate plot to frame the medical officer of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital, spearheaded by a top cop of the area, which culminated in the ‘sterilisation scare’ that took the country by storm after it was sensationally reported in a Sinhalese newspaper on May 23.

The senior police officer launched an apparent ‘investigation’ against Dr Shihabdeen in late April, nearly a month before he was arrested on suspicious accumulation of assets and subsequently investigated for an entirely different charge, according to details in the petition.

Dr Shihabdeen’s right to be presumed innocent has been vitiated by inviting the public to prefer complaints consequent to his unlawful arrest, the petition stated.

The FR petition was filed just days before the Criminal Investigations Department reported to the Kurunegala Magistrate that after a month of investigations, there was no evidence to the allegations that Dr Shihabdeen had sterilised women during caesarean sections.

Last Tuesday (25), attorney-at-law Rushdie Habeeb filed a fundamental rights petition on behalf of Dr Shihabdeen who is currently still in detention at the CID. The petition charges that the allegations levelled against the Kurunegala Senior Medical Officer were false and his arrest and detention an illegal abuse of power by the OIC of the Kurunegala Police Station and the DIG of Kurunegala, Kithsiri Jayalath.

OIC of the Kurunegala Police Station, Inspector Pushpalal; the OIC Kurunegala Police Station, DIG Jayalath; Director CID Shani Abeysekera; Defence Secretary Gen. S.H.S. Kottegoda; Acting IGP Chandra Wickremaratne and the Attorney General have been cited as respondents in Dr Shihabdeen’s petition.

The allegations that Dr Shihabdeen had performed illegal sterilisations were baseless, frivolous and unsupported by any clinical evidence the petition states, adding that the charges were levelled to maliciously tarnish his image and cause disrepute to him professionally and personally.

Detailing procedures during a C-Section and the staff members present during the surgery to disprove the sterilisation theory, the petition said there were no post-operative complaints recorded against Dr Shihabdeen. The petition also includes an annexure of a letter of reference for Dr Shihabdeen, detailing his unblemished 14 year career as a doctor, by the Consultant of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital, Dr Upali Jayawardane.

But more interestingly, the FR petition provides details about how the DIG Kurunegala on claims of receiving ‘intelligence information’ had begun investigations against the medical officer, searching his residence and office several times, and filing B reports in court without naming the person under investigation.

According to the petition filed on behalf of Dr Shihabdeen, the article in a Sinhala newspaper published as the lead story on May 23, 2019 that 4,000 Sinhala mothers had been sterilised by a NTJ doctor had cited information received from a ‘police source’ and was given publicity on the front page of the newspaper in order to set the stage and justify the illegal arrest and illegal detention of the doctor without a legal basis.

“The front page headline story in the Sinhala daily created disquiet and anxiety in the country with people demanding the arrest and prosecution of the doctor,” the petition states.

Dr Shihabdeen’s petition goes on to detail his arrest under the Prevention of Terrorism Act by police officers attached to the Kurunegala Police Station.

According to the petition, on May 24, fearing for the safety of her family, Dr Shihabdeen’s wife -Dr Imara, telephoned her cousin Mohamed Parsan to come to their house. Dr Shihabdeen left for the mosque with his son, close to around 8.00 pm in a three wheeler.

The petition goes on to explain how when the doctor had indicated to the police officers who had arrived at his residence in civvies that night, that he intends to lodge a complaint indicated to the doctor that he should come with them and do so immediately at the police station.

“Dr Shihabdeen had proceeded to the Police station in his friend’s vehicle with the two Police officers also in the vehicle while his brother-in-law and a friend followed in Dr Shihabdeen’s vehicle; Near the Kandy Reach Hotel a Police jeep was parked and the said jeep then followed the two vehicles. However when they came near the Police Station the two Police officers requested them to keep driving and shortly after they passed the Kurunegala Police Station, the Police officers requested the driver to slow down. Thereafter the said Police jeep overtook the vehicle in which Dr Shihabdeen was travelling in and stopped in front. The 1st Respondent then stepped out of the jeep and asked Dr Shihabdeen to get into the Police jeep; He was then taken to the Police Station and kept there and brought back home at around 11.00 pm; This time a team of officers arrived, some in civil clothing and others in uniform carrying weapons with Dr Shihabdeen,” the petition described the incident.

Shortly thereafter another team arrived with sniffer dogs and thoroughly searched the residence which had lasted approximately two hours and during the search a Police officer was receiving calls from someone who seemed to be a superior officer and the conversations were overhead by Muhammed Parsan as the said officer would come out of the house to answer the calls.

The petition states that Dr Shihabdeen’s Fundamental Rights had been violated by the illegal arrest and illegal detention purportedly under a detention order as stated in the Report filed in MC Kurunegela B 1398/19 dated May 27, 2019. According to the petitioner, Dr Shihabdeen has not been issued with a copy of the detention order, which was said to be issued. The 1st to 3rd Respondents (OIC Kurunegala, Inspector Pushpalal and DIG Kithsiri Jayalath) had acted and continue to act with malice, for an ulterior purpose and in gross abuse of their power, the petition added. “No reasons were given for the arrest and no reasons exist for the arrest of Dr Shihabdeen and there are no reasons or basis for his continued detention,” the petition said.

The application requests the Supreme Court to order the disclosure of the application for a detention order under the PTA by the respondents and issue an interim order releasing the doctor. The petition also prays the court to grant and issue an order quashing the detention order issued.