A writ of habeas corpus regarding former Colombo deputy mayor and leader of the National Unity Front Azath Salley was filed in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday May 7th.
The writ was filed on behalf of Mr. Salley’s wife Mrs. F. Rinoza M. Salley by senior Attorney at law Ms. Gowrishankari Thavarajah. Tamil National alliance parliamentarian and senior lawyer M. A. Sumanthiran will be supporting the habeas corpus write when taken up by the Appeal court.
Ms. Gowrishangari Thavarajah is the wife of lawyer KV Thavarajah who is also the president of the Colombo branch of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK)
The habeas corpus writ pleads for the court to order that Mr. Azath Salley who was taken away by Police personnel on May 2nd 2013 be produced in court.
Ms. Salley in the writ states that the arrest and detention of her husband is unlawful and unjust and that he be released from custody immediately.
She states that her husband has been receiving medical treatment for Diabetes for the past seven years and that his health is deteriorating in Police custody.
Among those cited as respondents in the habeas corpus writ are Inspector General of Police NK Illangakoon, Criminal Investigations Dept director Senior Supdt of Police Gamini Maturata,CID Inspector Lasantha Ratnayake, Attorney General Sarath Palitha Fernando and Secretary of Defence and Urban Development Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Ms. Salley beseeches the Court to direct the IGP, the CID and the Secretary Defence to produce Mr.Salley before a Court of Law, and deal with him according to the law.The petition says that Salley, who had been arrested on May 2, 2013, had not been produced before a Magistrate, up to May 6, 2013.The petition pleads for courts to issue a mandatory order to release Mr.Salley from unlawful detention and further to discharge him.
Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian and Lawyer M.A.Sumanthiran said he is involved in taking legal action on behalf of former Colombo Deputy Mayor Azath Salley who is detained under provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Azath Salley the founder leader of the National Unity Front was taken into custody on Thursday May 2nd under section 120 of the Penal Code and clause 21 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Speaking to this writer prior to the habeas corpus writ being filed Mr.Sumanthiran said that he would be leading the legal team appearing for Azath Salley after the writ of habeas corpus was filed at the appeal courts. He would be supporting it when taken up in courts in a day or two, Mr. Sumanthiran said.
Mr. Sumanthiran said that lawyer JC Weliyamuna was also an integral part of Salley’s legal defence team and that if he were available Mr.Weliyamuna may support the writ in court.
Attorney at law Shiraz Noordeen who is Azath Salley’s counsel would be coordinating the legal defence of the detained political leader.
Mr. Sumanthiran also said that a fundamental rights petition too would be filed at the Supreme Court on behalf of Mr. Azath Salley in due course. It would be filed by Ms.Gowrishankari Thavarajah. The petitioner in this would be Azath Salley’s personal lawyer Mr. Shiraz Noordeen.
Mr. Sumanthiran said he would argue in support of the petition if and when the Supreme Court granted leave to proceed further.Again if Mr. Weliyamuna were available both of them would be associated in taking it up in the Supreme court
When asked whether it was possible to obtain legal redress at this point of time in a situation where Mr.Azath Salley had been detained under a 90 day detention order issued under the PTA, Mr. Sumanthiran replied that there appeared to be some “confusion” among the authorities with regard to the arrest,detention and investigation of Mr. Azath Salley.
He said that while Mr.Salley was detained under the PTA for an alleged offence falling under the purview of the terrorism act , the Police spokesperson and Director of Media center for National security had reportedly told the press that he was being probed for alleged offences relating to fraud too.
“If that is the case then they have violated all procedures because you cannnot arrest and detain a person for alleged “terrorist”offences under the PTA and then say he is being investigated for other non – terrorism related offences also. You cannot mix up the two. It is totally wrong to detain a person under the PTA and then say you are probing him for criminal offences. The PTA is being abused and misused” pointed out Mr.Sumanthiran
He further said that by initiating legal action the lawyers appearing for Mr. Azath Salley hoped to clarify the exact position and hopefully prove that the manner in which Mr. Salley had been arrested and detained amounted to wrongful arrest and confinement.
When asked about the statements made by the Police to media that Mr.Salley was being interrogated on 18 charges , Nr. Sumanthiran said that to the best of his knowledge the only matter on which Mr.Salley had been questioned so far was over the interview he had purportedly given to the Tamil Nadu newsmagazine ”Junior Vikatan”.
Asked about Mr. Salley’s health , Mr. Sumanthiran replied that it was deteriorating rapidly. He said that Mr.Azath Salley had been hospitalised again on Monday(May 6th) as he had collapsed in custody and had to be carried to hospital.He was currently on saline.
Mr. Azath Salley had been refusing to consume food or water from the time he was arrested on May 2nd. He has been fasting as a protest agains his arrest and detention which he has described as false and illegal. He has refused to drink even water taken by his wife and daughter saying he was refusing to eat or drink on a matter of principle.
Being a diabetic and also suffering from hypertension Mr.Salley’s physical state has been declining but the defiant Azath had steadfastly refused to relent.
Mr. Sumanthiran said that he had visited Mr.Salley at ward 55 of the National hospital on Saturday (May 4th) and found Azath’s health deteriorating but the man had refused his entreaties to eat or drink.
While Mr.Salley had been without food or water since the morning of May 2nd the media center for national security director Lakshman Hulugalle addressing a press conference on Monday (May 6th) has said that the detenue has been partaking of food and water from Sunday (May5th) and that his health was good.
When asked about this specifically, Mr.Sumanthiran said that the statement about Mr.Salley consuming food from Sunday was not correct.
“Azath Salley has not been eating or drinking for almost five days at a stretch. He was in a very weak state and had to be carried by two policemen when his lawyer Shiraz Noordeen went to see him while in detention.Ultimately he collapsed in custody and had to be carried to hospital yesterday(5th)evening. Now he is on saline. Hopefully his health would stabilise in due course” said Mr. Sumanthiran.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org