Giritale MI commander to be indicted over Eknaligoda abduction | Sunday Observer

Giritale MI commander to be indicted over Eknaligoda abduction

Former Commanding Officer of the Giritale-based 3rd Military Intelligence Corps (3 MIC) of the Sri Lanka Army, Lieutenant Colonel Shammi Kumararathna and eight other officers will be indicted in connection with the disappearance and probable murder of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, the Attorney General said last week.

However the missing journalist’s family has already raised concerns about the handling of case.

The Attorney General’s Department this week announced that it is ready to file indictments against the military intelligence officers and operatives on charges of kidnapping and murdering Eknaligoda. The cartoonist went missing in January 2010.

The AG has also requested the Chief Justice to appoint a trial at bar in the Homagama High Court under section 450(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, considering the public interest and international appeal.

However last week, Sandya Eknaligoda wrote to Attorney General Dappula De Livera urging him to treat her husband’s case as a murder. Speaking to the Sunday Observer, SandyaEknaligoda who has been campaigning for justice for her missing husband for nearly a decade, said she had also raised concerns about Prageeth’s case file being transferred to a different prosecutor at the Attorney General’s Department just ahead of the indictments being filed. “I respectfully request you, Hon. Attorney General to please return this case file to Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris. I have watched in courtrooms as he and another prosecutor conducted proceedings in an excellent way,” the letter to the Attorney General stated.

Sandya Eknaligoda told the Sunday Observer that Peiris had handled Prageeth’s case since the outset, and had proved himself to be excellent and fair prosecutor.

She requested the Attorney General to hand the case back to Deputy Solicitor General Peiris, and requested him to instruct relevant officials at Attorney General’s Department to file ‘proper counts’ against the accused for the abduction, murder and disposal of Prageeth’s body, and also for concealing truth from the court.

The Sunday Observer also learns that at least two witnesses providedconfessions to the Magistrate under Section 127 of the Code of Criminal Procedure claiming that 3MIC got orders from former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to abduct Eknaligoda. Despite this and other critical evidence in the custody of investigators yet to be considered, the Attorney General has left the former defence secretary out of the case, while the other indictments have been expedited.

Presenting facts of the case to the Chief Justice, the Attorney General’s Department last week noted that CID investigations revealed that the 3 MIC unit had been used to gather information on the Presidential election campaigns at the time. During the process, the 3 MIC unit had discovered information which supported the premise that Eknaligoda was an opponent of the Rajapaksa Government which led to his abduction two days prior to the election on January 24, 2010.

The phone analysis conducted by the CID during investigations traced Eknaligoda to the Giritale Camp on the night of his abduction. Lt. Col. Kumararathna was Commanding Officer at the base. In-Camera evidence provided by a Sergeant Major of the camp, Jayasundara Mudiyanselage Ranbanda also confirmed Eknaligoda was brought to the camp by Kumararathna. According to evidence provided Ranbanda, Kumararathna had instructed him to question Eknaligoda about his cartoons and his connections to various individuals.

However, though indictments are all set to be filed, Eknaligoda’s fate remains unknown. CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekara told reporters last week that CID sleuths have not been able to elicit information on Eknaligoda’s eventual fate. He said the suspects had continuously refused to corporate with the investigators.

“We can trace Eknaligoda’s last known whereabouts to Akkaraipattu from the Giritale camp on January 26, 2010,” he told the media at a press briefing held at Police Headquarters this week. He added that the main suspect was also traced to the same area that day. “Lieutenant Colonel Shammi Kumararathana can be placed in the same area through phone record analysis,” he said. However, he said Kumararathna and other suspects were refusing to divulge further information about Eknaligoda. The CID was also able to uncover that some suspects had also taken part in the first abduction of Eknaligoda on August 27, 2009. He was later released only to be kidnapped again in January 2010.

SSP Abeysekera also said the CID had not unravelled the mystery behind who ordered Eknaligoda’s abduction. “It is unlikely that Kumararathna who took Eknaligoda to the camp in Giritale had a personal reason to do so,” Abeysekara said.