By Ranjith Padmasiri
Former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda and other navy officers are to face a High Court trial-at-bar over the alleged abduction and disappearance of 11 youths, the Attorney General’s Department has decided.
The case is to be taken up without a jury in view of the public controversy it has created. In terms of the Criminal Procedure Code clause 450, the High Court trial-at-bar could sit without a jury.
The AG’s Department is to convey its decision shortly to the Chief Justice, who, in turn, will select the judges for the trial-at-bar.
Criminal Investigations Department (CID) sources said they would record a statement from Admiral Karannagoda shortly and hoped to produce him in court.
Earlier this week, a fundamental rights petition filed by Admiral Karannagoda, seeking a Supreme court order preventing his arrest was taken up.
Additional Solicitor General Viraj Dayaratne said that an undertaking could not be given that Admiral Karannagoda would not be arrested by the CID.
He said the investigations related to the abduction and disappearance of 11 youths had been completed and the AG’s Department hoped to proceed with the case.
The admiral’s lawyer, Romesh de Silva, said they had no objection to filing charges, but were seeking an order preventing his arrest.
The petition was taken up before a bench comprising Chief Justice Nalin Perea, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena and Justice Murdhu Fernando. However Justice Priyantha Jayawardena said he was withdrawing from the bench for personal reasons.
The petition will be considered on Friday.
The CID alleges that the former navy commander Karannagoda was aware that a group of navy personnel had abducted and murdered five of the youths after keeping them in two underground prisons in Colombo and Trincomalee.
The CID charges that despite having strong evidence, Admiral Karannagoda had concealed the crime and only lodged a complaint with the former Deputy Inspector General in charge of the Colombo Crimes Division Anura Senanayake on May 28, 2009. In his complaint, the admiral had claimed that the first accused, Lt. Cdr. Sampath Munasinghe, was suspected of involvement in terrorist activities and asked the DIG to conduct an investigation on items and documents found during a search of the Navy officer’s room.
The CID notes that its probe has revealed that the lives of these five abducted youths could have been saved, if Admiral Karannagoda had acted soon after receiving information about them.
Police had gone to Admiral Karannagoda’s residential address at Polhengoda in Kirulapone on February 20 to deliver notice to him to appear before the CID to give a statement. However, they had been informed by one of his brothers that he now resides at an address at Beddagana in Pitakotte. However, officers who visited that address on February 21 had not been able to find anyone there.