Forty days after Dr. Seigu Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital was detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), evidence gathered by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) showed that the allegations of forcible sterilization by the senior medical officer were based on speculation fuelled by media reports.
This week, the Kurunegala Magistrate was told that there was no proof to link Dr. Shafi to the criminal activities he was famously accused of.
In a damning revelation the CID, presenting its over 200-page report, implied that the case against the Senior House Officer (SHO) was in fact fabricated.
Dr. Shafi was dragged into a hailstorm of accusations when, last month, a Sinhalese newspaper published a lead story claiming a ‘Thowheed Jama’ath’ doctor in Kurunegala had illegally sterilised 4,000 ‘Sinhala’ mothers. Prof. Channa Jayasumana attached to the University of Rajarata linked the article to Dr. Shafi drawing much hate from aggravated social media users. Soon the story became of national interest.
The accused doctor was arrested by the Kurunegala police despite Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekera denying the allegations made by the newspaper article, and said no complaints of that nature were made against Dr. Shafi. Police then called the public to lodge complaints against the doctor. Complaints were recorded from over 1,000 mothers at the hospital.
However, Magistrate’s Court heard that the CID has recorded statements from 615 women who came forward to complain against Dr. Shafi, and of them only 147 had cases that need to be further investigated as they failed to conceive after the caesarian delivery.
The hysterosalpingography (HSG) testing was recommended to see if their fallopian tubes were crushed by the doctor as accused. The CID sought a court order to carry out the test at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Castle Street Hospital for Women and De Soysa Maternity Hospital.
Presenting evidence ASP Tissera said six VOGs, 12 assisting doctors, 70 nurses and 18 members of the minor staff were also questioned during the probe. None of the hospital staff has made allegations against Dr. Shafi’s conduct.
The ASP has also personally witnessed a caesarian section and told in courts that it is highly unlikely for Dr. Shafi to carry out an illegal sterilization without the rest of the medical team noticing.
It was also revealed that Kurunegala Police DIG Kithsiri Jayalath had leaked the story to the controversial journalist saying that the allegations against Dr. Shafi were only ‘rumours’ and the said journalist built the newspaper’s lead story for that day from there. Dr. Shafi was thus detained for his alleged connections with terrorist organizations and acquiring property from funds obtained by them, in order to prevent a clash between Muslim and Tamil communities, and over information that he would escape custody.
The CID stated no prior information was obtained by the Kurunegala police regarding his connections to terrorist organizations, and therefore his detention was baseless. Also, it was the duty of the police to provide security to ensure peace if there was a threat of a clash, and a suspect can only be detained under reasonable suspicion that he would escape arrest.
Meanwhile, the court heard that the Kurunegala Police also provided a phony report to the CID that stated that there were complaints made against Dr. Shafi before the newspaper article was published. CID found that there were no such complaints recorded.
The court also heard that SP Mahinda Dissanayake of the Kurunegala Division has backdated a statement by a female doctor thereby falsifying the reports given to the CID during the investigations. Therefore, there was not sufficient evidence to take Dr. Shafi into custody. The doctor’s statement, made regarding an incident at Dambulla Base Hospital, was used to detain Dr. Shafi. CID claimed that SP Dissanayake was working outside his area of jurisdiction by detaining the doctor who was in Kurunegala.
Also, before accusing the doctor of his connections to a terrorism group the Kurunegala police has not checked with the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), CID, the tri-forces or any other security agency as usually practiced. ASP Tissera went on to say that when Dr. Shafi’s number was checked against a log of numbers of people suspected to have or have links to terrorists’ groups, it was found he has not contacted any of these numbers.
The CID said, therefore, Dr. Shafi cannot be held in detention and that it will seek approval to lift the Detention Order.
The hearing also saw the likes of Athuraliye Rathana Thera, Kurunegala Teaching Hospital’s Director Dr. A. M. S. Weera Bandara and Deputy Director Dr. Chandana Kendangamuwa backed with their legal team accusing the CID of being partial towards the accused doctor during their investigations. The CID retorted that to date it was not accused of partiality and had no intention to do so during Dr. Shafi’s investigation. Earlier, the GMOA of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital called for a presidential commission to probe into Dr. Shafi’s case.
The team opposed the HSG testing claiming that it would cause physical harm to the mothers who undergo the test.
Making submissions at the open court Dr. Weera Bandara said the HSG testing will only cause more harm to the mothers, and modern technologies should be used to investigate further into the case.
Speaking to the Sunday Observer he said the x-ray that is carried out during the testing will cause secondary sub-fertility ‘again and again’. He also said the CID report consisted only of the issues in the fallopian tube, and there needs to be a probe into side effects of Dr. Shafi’s ‘rough procedures’ to the ‘uterus’ of a mother.
Dr. Shafi has already filed a Fundamental Rights petition in court against his arrest. His wife was not present during the hearing fearing security threats. Dr. Shafi’s family fled from their hometown after the newspaper article fueled by racism offended the public.
The case will be taken up again on July 11.