Key suspect in Keith Noyahr abduction exposed in court ahead of ID parade | Sunday Observer

Key suspect in Keith Noyahr abduction exposed in court ahead of ID parade

There was high drama at the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s court on Friday, August 2, when a key suspect believed to be involved in the abduction and torture of journalist Keith Noyahr, as well as the assault on newspaper editor Upali Tennakoon, was brought into the court premises by prison authorities without his face being covered, triggering his lawyers to seek cancellation of an identification parade on those grounds.

Former Military Intelligence Unit Corporal Lalith Rajapaksa was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) after fingerprints were found on the car Tennakoon and his wife were travelling in when they were attacked. Sunday Observer learns that an eye witness had also confirmed and placed Rajapaksa at the scene of Noyahr’s abduction as well.

Since both the victims are currently not in the country, steps were taken to hold the identification parade via video conference. Relevant requisition documents have already been presented to the Justice Minister and the ministry secretary. The Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act also provides for courts to hold an identification parade using video technology.

When the suspect was brought into the Mt. Lavinia courts on Friday, Mahara Prison officials had failed to cover him following procedure and brought him uncovered and allowed him to be in view of media personnel at the court premises.

Appearing on behalf of the Attorney General, Senior State Counsel Lakmini Girihagama made submissions in court about the blatant violation of procedure by prison officials. She insisted that these cases should not be trivialised.

“Unearthing of evidence so far has been done through sheer commitment by the investigators. The people involved in the abduction, how the premises where Noyahr was kept was rented and who signed the lease agreements, telephone analysis were deciphered by officials, all through plain hard work and dedication even after knowing who was behind these crimes. And when suspects are found with the greatest difficulty, they must be produced in an identification parade,” SSC Girihagama told the court.When the same suspect was produced before the Gampaha Magistrate, on Thursday, August 1, to face an identification parade on the Upali Tennakoon matter, Mahara prisons officials had concealed his face.

The distinction between handling the suspect on the two occasions have raised concerns about whether the prisons authorities were under instructions from persons of influence to flout the law.

The annoyed Senior State Counsel stated that such irresponsible action by prisons officials would reverse the hard work by investigators to unearth evidence in these important cases. She requested the court to hold a special inquiry into the conduct of the prisons officials.

Noyahr was abducted and tortured on May 22, 2008, eventually released after a series of high level telephone calls on the night of his abduction. Upali Tennakoon was attacked on his way to work in January 2009, only days after Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated. Both Noyahr and Tennakoon have fled the country with their families for fear of their safety.

“These victims have left the country for the safety of their lives based on the actions of these culprits. Under such circumstances when the suspect is brought in without being covered and kept in an open courthouse for a good 16 minutes, it is grossly unfair by all genuine attempts to bring justice to the victims. It is a blatant violation of the law,” SSC Girihagama charged.

She added that these actions would continue to demotivate victims who still seek justice and want to assist with investigations. The Court was told on Friday that former Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon has already informed the CID that he would not participate in the identification parade via video conference.

He has also informed the CID that he does not wish to travel to Sri Lanka to participate in person either. Noyahr however, has informed the CID that he will participate in the identification parade via Skype because he could recognise two people if he sees them again.

The trajectory of cases against influential persons who were directly involved in attacks on journalists appears to be changing as of late.

Attempts to guarantee that the suspect Corporal Lalith Rajapaksa will not face an identification parade is clear. 

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