By Manopriya Gunasekera
Colombo Chief Magistrate yesterday granted bail to former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundera saying there was not enough grounds to charge them with murder.
Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujith Jayasundara were remanded on charges of criminal negligence and murder for failing to prevent the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday. However, Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne stated that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the murder charges presented against them by the Attorney General.
During the hearing the Magistrate said the court does not exist to function as demanded by the investigators and questioned as to why no statements were taken from Jayasundera and Fernando before they were charged with murder.
The Magistrate also said the information presented to court indicated that no proper investigation had been made before charges were framed against the suspects and after granting bail she instructed the relevant officials to inform Fernando and Jayasundera to present themselves at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to provide a statement.
Accordingly, the Magistrate decided that there was no reasonable basis for the suspects to be charged with murder and negligence causing serious property damage and ordered to release them on bail.
The Magistrate released the IGP Jayasundera and Fernando on a personal bail of Rs. 500,000 each. Both Fernando and Jayasundera were not present in Court despite a directive from the Prisons Commissioner as they were receiving treatment in hospital.
The Magistrate told Court that even though information uncovered from some Presidential Commissions could be presented as evidence in court if they were appointed under the Presidential Commission of Inquiry Act, the fact that the Presidential Commission appointed to investigate the Easter Sunday attacks had been done without such due process meant that its report could only be used as basic information in building the case.
After making this determination, the Magistrate also said that even though some information had been conveyed by the head of State Intelligence Service to the IGP and former Defence Secretary, it had no specific information and was not done in a way that conveyed an urgency that demanded prompt action.
She questioned as to how the two officials could have acted when there was no confirmed information to hand without risking public panic. She also said, based on the evidence presented so far, that while Fernando and Jayasundera may not have acted 100% competently they also could not be held responsible for criminal negligence.
As there was no indication of public unrest if the Fernando and Jayasundera were granted bail, the Magistrate said she decided to do so.