The Kurunegala Magistrate Thursday granted bail for a Muslim doctor police say has been illegally detained for two months following false and fabricated charges that he sterilized thousands of Sinhala-Buddhist women.
Magistrate Sampath Hewawasam, who himself is now under investigation for tampering with court records to extend the incarceration of Dr. Mohamed Shafi, granted bail under tough conditions of Rs. 2.5 million bond.
The release of Dr. Shafi came a day after the director of the police Criminal Investigations Department, Shani Abeysekara, told a Parliamentary Select Committee that they were under pressure as Buddhist clergy interfered with the process and wanted the doctor detained without charges.
Abeysekera said the CID lodged a complaint against the Magistrate too for allegedly removing vital evidence from the court record which should have showed that people without any standing in the case had attempted to mislead the court and block the investigation.
The CID said Kurunegala hospital director, dentist Weera Bandara, had addressed court without an invitation last month and attempted to scuttle the police investigation. Magistrate Hewawasam’s wife, Hiroshini Jayasinghe is an anesthetist at the same hospital and works under Weera Bandara. The Kurunegala DIG’s wife too is a doctor at the same hospital.
Weera Bandara is known to be a supporter of MP Wimal Weerawansa and is said to be a rival of Dr. Shafi who contested the 2015 elections under the United National Party ticket.
Despite the CID informing court two weeks ago that due process had not been followed in the arrest and subsequent detention under emergency regulations of Dr. Shafi, magistrate Hewawasam remanded him without any charges.
The Sinhalese-language Divaina newspaper which carried sensational claims that Dr. Shafi carried out 4,000 C-section procedures on Sinhalese women and subsequently performed sterilization procedures on them without their knowledge admitted the source of their report was Kurunegala police DIG Kithsiri Jayalath.
When under pressure to prove the allegations, the Divaina newspaper had carried further reports claiming that Dr. Shafi had performed 8,000 C-section deliveries, but hospital records showed that he had done less than 4,400 such operations during his entire career.
Jayalath has since denied he made a definite accusation and claimed that he had only referred to unsubstantiated rumors, according to a 210-page CID report to court. However, the CID reported to court that both DIG Jayalath and his Superintendent Mahinda Dissanayake fabricated evidence and falsified complaints.
Several doctors at the Kurunegala hospital have also given false complaints and they too have been reported to court for legal action.
CID investigations also found that although 615 women complained that they had been sterilized by Dr. Shafi only 147 were even eligible medically to make such a claim.
However, 11 out of 13 women who were subjected to a preliminary medical examination proved to have made false complaints.
Other doctors and nursing staff who were at the Kurunegala hospital when Dr. Shafi performed
C-section procedures had confirmed that there was nothing unusual during their operations and dismissed the allegations against him.