International and local opposition is mounting against Sri Lanka for detaining a leading Muslim lawyer accused of collusion in the Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 270.

Attorney at Law Hejaaz Hisbullah has been kept in detention since he has been arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on April 14, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). No reasons have been provided at the time of the arrest. Later, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne told journalists that the lawyer was arrested on the findings of what he called “fresh investigations”.

National and international rights bodies and activists have denounced the detention as a violation of accepted legal standards.

In a public statement the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have urged Sri Lankan authorities to specify the charges against him, grant him full and immediate access to a lawyer and investigate the circumstances of his arrest for potential rights violations.

Violating PTA

According to ICJ no remand or detention orders authorising his continued detention have been served to the lawyer even after the lapse of 72 hours, as required by the PTA. Moreover, Hisbullah had not been granted access to legal counsel since April 16.

“No one questions the government’s need and obligation to investigate the horrendous Easter Sunday attacks, but these investigations must be conducted in a way that is consistent with international law and the Sri Lankan Constitution,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director. “Not serving Hizbullah a remand order as required by law, and denying him full and confidential access to legal counsel is unacceptable and in violation of international standards on the right to liberty.”

Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) posing as officials of the Ministry of Health entered his home, according to a Habeas Corpus application filed by Hisbullah’s father seeking his release. After placing him in handcuffs, they interrogated him. They demanded access to two of his case files, recorded a statement and arrested him.

The arrest of attorney-at-law Hisbulla has been brought to the attention of the Chief Justice by a group of Sri Lankan activists.

“We request the Hon. Chief Justice to take note of the apparent interference by law enforcement authorities in the right of an officer of the Supreme Court to practice his profession freely and make necessary interventions to ensure attorneys-at-law are able to perform their functions without fear” said a statement signed by 117 individuals and 6 organisations.

‘Spiteful’ Sinhala media

In the meantime, the human rights council of Sri Lanka has been alerted to unsubstantiated allegations published by mainstream Sinhala weekend newspapers linking the brother of ex minister Rishad Badiudeen to the suspected mastermind of the Easter Sunday Bombings.

Businessman Riyaj Bathiudeen, was arrested on the same day as Hejaaz Hisbullah is now in remand prison.

Two Sinhala Sunday newspapers ‘Aruna’ and ‘Lankadeepa’ had published articles accusing the businessman, of being directly associated with Zahran Hashim.

The wife of Riyaj Bathiudeen has written to Dr. Deepika Udagama, head of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission that the articles are “malignant and inflammatory and was likely to have been written with ill-will”.

“In particular, I wish to highlight that the purported association between the mastermind of the Easter Attacks, Zahran Hashim and my husband are completely false, unsubstantiated and spiteful,” says Mohamed Nisar Fathima Israth in her letter to the HRCSL chairperson.

Although police have announced that nearly 200 have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the Easter Sunday bombings a tear ago, nobody has been charged so far.
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