Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne yesterday told the CID that it could investigate and institute legal action against journalist Dharisha Bastians if they are able to find evidence that she had sought to obstruct investigations into the alleged Swiss Embassy abduction case.
The Colombo Chief Magistrate indicated this after lawyers for Bastians clarified to Court that the journalist’s computer had been seized on 10 June. At a previous court date, Attorney at Law Shiraz Noordeen, who represented the journalist, indicated to court that the laptop may have been seized by the CID on 4 June, because the Police had visited the reporter’s private residence on two occasions without a warrant.
Presenting an affidavit from the journalist’s father-in-law, lawyers for Bastians informed the Magistrate that the laptop had been taken into the CID custody on 10 June, and expressed regret about the miscommunication.
However, appearing in court for the CID, ASP Merrill Ranjan Lamahewa objected and said the journalist had been obstructing the CID investigation from the outset, and inconvenienced the Department. The Chief Magistrate said the Court was satisfied by the clarification from counsel for the journalist but informed the CID that it could investigate the matter and bring legal action against the journalist if it transpires she had obstructed their probe.
The case in which Swiss Embassy staffer Garnier Barrister Francis is a suspect for making a false complaint was then postponed till 8 September. In a statement issued on 15 June, Bastians expressed willingness to cooperate with the criminal investigation.
Just last month, five international human rights organisations called on the Government to end the persecution and harassment of the journalist, whose name has been linked to the case involving a staffer of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo.
“The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Front Line Defenders condemn this assault on human rights and press freedom in Sri Lanka and call on the Sri Lanka Police to immediately stop the harassment and ensure Bastians’ safety,” the statement said.