ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s top intelligence services actively prevented criminal investigators closing in on the Easter Sunday bombers, the Supreme Court has been told in a new twist to the case.
On several occasions, intelligence operatives misled criminal investigators chasing suspects and planted “evidence” in the run up to the April 2019 bombings, the Supreme Court was told by the then director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Shani Abeysekara.
Some inquiries had also been blocked by invoking “national security” imperatives, he said.
Abeysekara went to court saying there is an attempt to arrest him on false allegations that he was responsible for not preventing the Easter Sunday bombings and is seeking 100 million rupees in compensation for the damage caused to his reputation.
Earlier, the police arrested him and held him in custody for over 10 months on an unrelated charge only to be released by the Court of Appeal which issued strictures on the police for incarcerating him on false allegations.
Abeysekara said the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) and the State Intelligence Service (SIS) conspired to show that the murder of two police constables at Vavunathivu in November 2018 was carried out by former Tamil Tiger cadres and not the work of Islamic extremists.
Filing a fundamental rights petition against his imminent arrest on a new charge that he neglected to investigate the Vavunathivu murders which were a precursor to the Easter Sunday bombings, Abeysekara listed how the intelligence units collaborated to divert attention from Islamic extremists.
The DMI gave four reports on December 5, 8, 14 and January 3, 2019 making a case that the murders of the two constables were committed by ex-LTTE men as retaliation for police blocking a Tiger war memorial in November 2018.
The DMI had suggested that an extra marital affair one of the victims had with a married woman had resulted in her husband getting an ex-LTTE cadre to kill the constable. Subsequently, the DMI went as far as to name the ex-LTTE men who were allegedly responsible for the killings. But, they turned out to be innocent.
Abeysekara in his 36-page petition said that the then SIS chief Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) Nilantha Jayawardene had tipped off the CID about a motorcycle jacket said to have been worn by one of the men who killed the two police constables. Later it turned out that the “evidence” had been planted.
When the CID visited the area where the “evidence of a jacket” was found, SIS operatives were already there.
Abeysekara’s explosive revelations show multiple efforts by SIS and the DMI to prevent the CID getting close to Zahran Hashim’s NTJ outfit and that “national security” secrecy provisions had also been invoked to prevent the CID questioning an SIS operative identified as “Sonic Sonic.”
Had the CID been allowed to carry out investigations independently, it would have been able to uncover the truth and possibly prevent the Easter Sunday attacks, Abeysekara said.
“… before the said intelligence reports were shared by the DMI, the CID investigations, did not have any other evidence to prove that the suspects were the Ex- LTTE members who were involved with the murder of the two constables,” Abeysekara said in his petition, a copy of which was published online.
“Ex-LTTE member had been falsely framed for the murder of police officers by the intelligence services (DMI and SIS)… The DMI and SIS are suspected to have conspired to plant the motorcycle jacket in a school bag, to mislead CID investigations on the murder of two police officers in order to prevent them from discovering the real assailants involved in the murder.
“…due to the confusions caused by the SIS and DMI, CID officers discovered only after the attacks of Easter Sunday, that the murder of the two officers was committed by the NTJ terror group led by Zahran Hashim,” according to the petition.
After the incident the CID was under orders not to probe into a person called “Sonic Sonic,” who had been communicating with a suspect traced to Matale.
Abeysekara was told by SIS DIG Sampath Liayanage “not to proceed with the said interrogation as the involvement of Sub Inspector Bandara with ‘Podi Zahran’ (an associate of Zahran) is a part of covert operation which is directly connected to national security.”
Taj bomber connections
The petition also revealed how the DMI reacted regarding the suicide bomber Abdul Latif Jamil who initially went to the Taj Samudra.
The man had received a telephone call, as seen on CCTV footage, and then left the Taj hotel without setting off his backpack of explosives. DMI operatives were at Jamil’s house and speaking with his wife just before he carried out a bombing later at Tropical Inn, Dehiwala after leaving the Taj.
Abeysekara revealed that a security officer at a Dehiwala mosque questioned Jamil after other worshippers raised the alarm over his suspicious behaviour. After leaving his backpack at the Tropical Inn, Jamil had visited a nearby mosque.
Jamil had told the mosque security officer, a retired policeman, that he had a dispute with his wife the previous night and was distraught. The officer had telephoned Jamil’s wife to verify. Soon after, a call came from Jamil’s wife’s number to the security officer. This time it was a DMI operative on the phone.
The DMI man was at Jamil’s house and had been listening to the conversation between the mosque’s security officer and Jamil’s wife. Abeysekara raises questions about DMI links to Jamil and the others involved.
The statement of the security officer about this conversation had been made to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry.
The SIS had given the command structure of Zahran Harshim’s outfit to CID investigators only after the Easter Sunday attack, Abeysekara said listing the sequence of events.
Abeysekera had solved a number of high profile cases, had been promoted several times on merit in a long career through multiple administrations and had received commendations including from the judiciary. He had also led the investigations into the central bank bond scam.
(COLOMBO, February 19, 2021)
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