by Anurangi Singh
Prosecutors are mulling leading evidence from journalist Keith Noyahr who was abducted and tortured in May 2008 via video conference, under provisions of the Witness and Victims Protection Act, Sunday Observer reliably learns.
As the investigation into Noyahr’s abduction allegedly by a military intelligence group led by Major Bulathwatte nears conclusion, and links top officials serving in the Defence establishment in 2008, the necessary legal framework and logistics are being effected to ensure Noyahr does not need to set foot on Sri Lankan soil to testify, authoritative sources told the Sunday Observer.
If the plan works out, Noyahr will give evidence from Canberra, Australia. A senior prosecutor could also be flown out to assist with the case and lead the journalist’s evidence when the case goes on trial, the sources said.
Noyahr who was Associate Editor of The Nation newspaper at the time of his abduction has previously refused to return to Sri Lanka even to identify his suspected attackers in a court ordered identification parade last year. Earlier this month, OIC CID Nishantha Silva travelled to Australia to record his statement and testimony from Noyahr.
Noyahr and his family left for Australia soon after he was released by his abductors in 2008 and never returned save for brief visits, fearing reprisals. Keith Noyahr was abducted outside his home in Dehiwela on May 22, 2008 and tortured at, what investigators believe, was an army safe house in Dompe before being released.
Stripped naked with his eyes bound, Noyahr heard a telephone call being received by a senior officer at the safe house where he was being held, after which he was told that he would not be killed and would be released.
The CID has established that the call overheard by Noyahr was from the then Military Intelligence Head Amal Karunasekara to Major Bulathwatte.
The impetus for Karunasekara to place the call is said to be in response to a call he had received from the then Chief of National Intelligence Kapila Hendawitharana, who in turn had been called earlier by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. These phone call records were extensively reported in the Sunday Observer of April 15, 2018.
Last Friday (17), CID officials led by Senior DIG CID Ravi Seneviratne, visited former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at his home, to record a statement from him on the phone calls received on the night of Noyahr’s abduction. Despite several requests for the former President to report to the CID to make a statement, Rajapaksa had declined. CID officials had notified the former President last week that they would be visiting his Wijerama Road residence to record his statement.
Throughout the three hours of questioning, Rajapaksa maintained that he had no recollection of any events on the particular date. The CID decided to question the former President after Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who was then a member of Rajapaksa’s cabinet told investigators he had phoned President Rajapaksa to ask him to get Noyahr released.
The statement by the Speaker was corroborated by the CID which told Court that they had a call record evidence that Mahinda Rajapaksa had then called former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who in turn called former Intelligence Chief Retired Major General Kapila Hendawitharana who then called Amal Karunasena, who in turn, takes the final call to Major General Bulatwatte who was believed to have been present at the safe house where Noyahr was detained.
Bruised and bloodied Noyahr returned home several hours after being abducted, released by his assailants at the top of the road and asked to walk home. Noyahr told investigators that his abductors had asked him where he wanted to be buried, while they beat him savagely causing major head injuries.