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04 March 2024

Sri Lanka officials accused of blast negligence granted bail

Photo: AP


A Sri Lankan court on Tuesday granted bail to the country’s police chief and former top defense bureaucrat a week after they were arrested for alleged criminal negligence leading to Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks that killed more than 250 people.

The court ruled that there was no need for the officials to be held during their investigation.

Police chief Pujith Jayasundara was suspended and former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned after the April 21 attacks. They were arrested last week on the basis of the findings of a presidential commission of inquiry into the bombings of three churches and three hotels.

The attorney general earlier this month instructed the acting police chief to take action against the two officials, saying the offenses that they are accused of amount to “grave crimes against humanity” under international law.

The government has come under heavy criticism for ignoring near-specific intelligence reports before the attacks, and both officials testified before a parliamentary committee explaining security shortcomings.

However, President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also defense minister and the minister in charge of police, opposed the parliamentary inquiry while court cases are being heard on the blasts.

Fernando told the committee that Sirisena wasn’t easily accessible for discussions. Jayasundara said Sirisena asked him after the blasts to resign to take responsibility and promised he would have his name cleared in any subsequent inquiry.

Jayasundara also said Sirisena had asked him not to attend National Security Council meetings since last October, when Sirisena fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a power struggle that triggered a seven-week political crisis. Wickremesinghe was subsequently reinstated by the Supreme Court.