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Sri Lankan cardinal questions release of Easter attack suspects

Cardinal Ranjith says the sudden release of Riyaj Bathiudeen, brother of former minister Rishad Bathiudeen, is highly suspicious

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Updated: October 05, 2020 06:18 AM GMT
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Sri Lankan cardinal questions release of Easter attack suspects

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith arrives for a service attended by Easter Sunday attack survivors for the reopening of St. Anthony's Church in Colombo on June 12, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

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Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has criticized the release of suspects arrested in connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, casting doubt on the Sri Lankan government's investigation into the attacks.

He was speaking after Riyaj Bathiudeen, who was arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday bombing and detained for 168 days, was released due to lack of evidence.

"Investigations were carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after detaining the suspect in custody for five months and it has been revealed that there was insufficient evidence against him," said Cardinal Ranjith in a press conference on Oct. 3.

He said that security chiefs had said a few months ago that there was evidence against several individuals.

"It is sad and unfortunate that those who are alleged to have been involved in the attacks are released," the cardinal said.

Relatives of Easter attack victims and Cardinal Ranjith said the sudden release of Riyaj Bathiudeen, brother of former minister Rishad Bathiudeen, was highly suspicious.

"Those who are affected physically and mentally wait for justice to be meted out, but it is unfortunate that the investigation is not going the way it should," said the prelate.

Police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne told the media on Sept. 15 that Riyaj Bathiudeen had met with one of the suicide bombers at a hotel.

Following a special operation, the CID arrested suspects in connection with the suicide bombings on three churches and three luxury hotels, which killed at least 279 people and injured at least 500.

Riyaj Bathiudeen was also accused of setting up special welfare societies and collaborating with the bombers.

A demonstration was held by relatives of victims on Oct. 4 in front of St. Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya demanding punishment for the suspects involved in the Easter attacks.

"My family and child were both killed in the Katuwapitiya bombing. We need a fair solution," said S. Fernando.

"Four of the seven suspects arrested along with Riyaj Bathiudeen in connection with the attack and detained for several months by the CID have been released and none of them have ever been produced in court. Do justice to the dead.”

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated in a Facebook post on Oct. 4 that ensuring national security is the first and foremost responsibility of his government.

Rajapaksa emphasized that his government has not entered into any deal with MP Rishad Bathiudeen.

Media reports claim that the government has a deal with the powerful Muslim politician to get his support for a parliamentary vote which will pass constitutional changes giving the president sweeping powers. 

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