Justice for Shani Abeysekera

Monday, 21 February 2022 02:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Former Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Director SSP (Rtd) Shani Abeysekera filed a petition in the Supreme Court last Friday (18), seeking to prevent his arrest in connection with a set of fresh charges that claim he failed to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks. It is reported that the Government is planning to use testimony from the wife of Zaharan Hashim, the leader of the terrorist cell that carried out the attacks, to incriminate the former policeman.

In July 2020, SSP Abeysekera was arrested by the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) which accused him of introducing weapons to implicate former Deputy Inspector-General Vass Gunawardena, who was convicted of the 2013 murder of businessman Mohamed Shiyam. Gunawardena was found guilty by a High Court trial-at-bar and sentenced to death. Then ASP Shani Abeysekera received formal commendations for his excellent investigations that led to the conviction. 

After his arrest, Abeysekera was incarcerated for 11 months in connection with the 2013 murder investigation, which the Court of Appeal later called a “concocted story.” The 60-year-old super-sleuth contracted COVID-19 and experienced a life-threatening cardiac event while wrongly imprisoned. His lawyers, activists and foreign governments had to lobby for basic healthcare to be provided for the former Director of the CID.

In June 2021, the Court of Appeal order granting bail to Abeysekara took note of the blatant attempt by the CCD to frame him. The court found that the weapons Abeysekara had discovered during his investigation into the Shiyam murder were indeed traced to Vass Gunawardena, who in fact had admitted to it in his dock statement. “On account of the said unusual and extraordinary delay, the complaint has not only lost the benefit of the advantage of spontaneity, but also smacks of the introduction of a fabricated, false version and an exaggerated account or concocted story involving a set of collaborators or conspirators, to unduly cause prejudice and harm to the suspect Shani Abeysekara, for collateral purposes,” the Court said.

In his fundamental rights petition to the Supreme Court last week, SSP Abeysekera makes chilling revelations that directly imply links between the Easter Sunday bombers and several state intelligence agencies. He also claims that there was serious interference by these agencies into the CID investigations into the NTJ operations in the lead up to the Easter attacks.

Abeysekera’s petition before the Supreme Court turns the purported charges the Government is seeking to bring against him on their head. The Government has set the CID on a mission to implicate Shani Abeysekera for the law enforcement failures that led to the Easter terror attacks. The former CID director’s court filings lay bare not only the rigour of Abeysekera’s investigation into Zaharan Hashim and his NTJ terror cell, but also the extent to which the intelligence services, political actors and the military went to mislead and obfuscate the probe. The allegations made in the court filings are so explosive and damaging to the state apparatus, that they must be unpacked separately.

At this point, there is a fundamental necessity to ensure the safety and security of SSP Abeysekera. Undoubtedly, there is an effort to intimidate Abeysekera into silence, and the former top cop will have none of it. During his 23-year career at the CID, Shani Abeysekera cracked some of the most emblematic and brutal criminal cases in Sri Lankan history. These include the terrorist attack in 2006 on then defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the 2001 attack on the Katunayake airport base and the attempted assassination of former president Chandrika Kumaratunge by the LTTE in 1999. 

SSP Abeysekera has also made powerful enemies due to his fearless and professional investigations as Director CID into the murder of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, the enforced disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda, the abduction, extortion and murder of 11 Tamil and Muslim men by Navy personnel, and other marquee cases in which armed forces personnel have been implicated in heinous crimes. This latest effort to arrest the former CID chief smacks of a concerted and malicious effort to silence the top detective who has served Sri Lanka with dedication, integrity, and distinction and it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure his physical safety and security.