The mere mention of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s name was enough to have any detainee released from custody, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had told police he heard from a senior officer.
In the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Court yesterday (20), the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said in the statement that the former President made to them with regard to the abduction of journalist Keith Noyahr he had related a conversation he had had with Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Anura Senanayake. In that conversation, Senanayake had said, anyone could be freed on the orders of the Defence Secretary, former President had said.
The submissions were being made by the CID before Mount Lavinia (MTL) Additional Magistrate Lochana Abeywickrema as the hearing into the abduction and assault of journalist Keith Noyahr was taken up.
The CID told the Court that its officers had visited the house of the former President on 17 August ahead of recording a statement from him on the case and the CID said that Mahinda Rajapaksa had told them that journalist Noyahr had been abducted and assaulted before releasing him after being ordered to do so by the former Defence Secretary.
The CID informed the Court that the former President told them that once when he had visited the prison in order to meet certain inmates there, he had also spoken to then imprisoned former SDIG Senanayake.
The CID further told the Court that the former President had told them that while speaking to Senanayake, he could vaguely remember that the latter had allegedly confided in Rajapaksa that anyone could be freed at the time if the former Defence Secretary had ordered such.
The CID also told the Court that the former President during his statement had stated that he cannot clearly remember that current Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had informed him regarding the abduction of Noyahr.
The CID informed the Court that the former President had told them that he could not at the time even remember whether there had been a journalist named Keith Noyahr as most of the journalists at the time had published critical articles against his regime. The CID informed the Court that the former President had told them that he had no special recollection of whether incumbent Speaker Jayasuriya had back then informed him via a phone call that Noyahr had allegedly been abducted.
Taking the submissions into consideration, the MTL Additional Magistrate told the Court that since witnesses appeared to be forgetful the CID should probe into it. Senior State Counsel Lakmini Girihagama representing the prosecution told the Court that as long as witnesses continue to state that they cannot remember, it could scupper the investigations into the case.
Also on the day, the statement obtained by the CID from Noyahr was summarized before the Court by them.
The CID told the Court that during his statement to them, Noyahr had told them that while he was being abducted, his captors had continued to assault him and that his captors had demanded to know from him as to who was supplying information to him for his articles, the sources behind his articles and the details regarding his spouse, children and his bank accounts, among others.
The CID informed the Court that Noyahr had told them that he had been taken to the Budawatta house blindfolded before disrobing him and taking away his cell phone and his wedding ring.
The CID told the Court further that Noyahr had told them that while continuing to assault him, one of the captors had received a call and to that they had replied ‘okay, okay sir’ and after that they had stopped the assault on him before dumping him at a place in Mount Lavinia. Further, the CID told the Court that Noyahr had told them that before releasing him, his captors had warned him not to spill the beans related to his abduction and if so his spouse and children will not be allowed to live.
Also, the CID informed the Court that Noyahr had told them that soon after the abduction and assault incident, he had spotted white vans roaming near his residence before he had left the country to reside in Melbourne, Australia with his family.
The prosecution told the Court that questionnaires that had been sent to different people (including the current Defence Secretary), adding however that they had not yet been replied to by those concerned and those related to the case.
Taking the submissions into consideration, MTL Additional Magistrate Abeywickrema said that the eighth suspect in the case, former Head of the Army Intelligence Retired Major General Amal Karunasekera cannot be denied bail repeatedly on the aforementioned detail, and that she will announce her decision on bail for the defendant at the next hearing.
Afterwards she ordered the suspect to be further remanded till 27 August before fixing the next hearing of the case to that date.