BY MANJULA FERNANDO AND MANESHKA BORHAM
Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday sought a clarification from the officials on what grounds the brother of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who was arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act was released suddenly.
Riyaj Bathiudeen was arrested five months ago by a special team of the Criminal Investigations Department officials investigating the series of coordinated terror attacks in April last year where over 250 died while attending the Easter Sunday Holy Mass.
The charges against him were having direct contact with one of the Easter Sunday bombers and being a beneficiary of their funding. The police earlier said a day prior to April 21, Riyaj Bathiudeen had met one of the suicide bombers at a reputed hotel.
The Cardinal told a media briefing yesterday at Bishop’s House that this matter should be reviewed in fairness and justice to the people who lost their loved ones. He said some of the victims in the attacks will remain bedridden for the rest of their lives.
“We need to know whether there was a political deal behind his release. He was alleged to have contacts with terror suspects five months ago and then suddenly he is released from remand custody. We have a genuine suspicion,” the Cardinal said adding that he was waiting for those responsible to clarify this latest turn of events.
He also said the statements by Police spokesman SSP Jaliya Senaratne regarding the suspect are contradictory. To prove his point the Cardinal played a video recording of the statements by the police Spokesman. He alleged the police had released the suspect without following the proper court proceedings.
In response, Police Spokesman SSP Jaliya Senaratne, denied he had made contradictory statements regarding the arrest and the recent release of Riyaj Bathiudeen. “At the time the CID believed they had reasonable suspicion to arrest him,” he told the Sunday Observer. “However following investigations the suspicion against Bathiudeen was allayed,” he said adding that Bathiudeen provided a satisfactory explanation to the law enforcement agency. According to Senaratne, as a result, Bathiudeen was released as the CID could not find any evidence to file a case against him.
Refuting the allegation that the police had not followed the proper court procedure when releasing the parliamentarian’s brother, Senaratne said there were several ways in which a suspect can be released.
“In some crimes, the police can grant bail directly, or else a suspect must be produced before the Magistrate’s Court where granting bail will be at the discretion of the Magistrate. In some cases, the Magistrate’s Court also cannot release a person on bail and instead the suspect must make an application to a higher court,” he said. However, this would only apply if a case is filed against the person, he added. According to Senaratne, as in the case of Bathiudeen, the police can also release a suspect if there isn’t sufficient evidence to take legal action. “Even if a person is arrested under the PTA, if we are unable to file a case against him due to lack of evidence to link him to the allegations, the police can release him,” he said.