A Sri Lankan court has granted bail to the country’s police chief and former defence secretary, a week after they were arrested over allegations that they failed to prevent the Easter Sunday bomb attacks that killed more than 250 people.
The magistrate’s court in capital Colombo also rejected prosecution demands that the two officials face murder charges for the attacks, AFP news agency reported on Tuesday. The case will be next heard on July 22.
Sri Lanka‘s Criminal Investigation Department had last week arrested Inspector General of Police, Pujith Jayasundara, and former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Hemasiri Fernando, while they were both receiving treatment in hospital.
Attorney General Dappula de Livera had ordered their arrest for “grave crimes against humanity” following the findings of a presidential commission of inquiry into the bombings of three churches and three hotels.
Jayasundara was suspended and Fernando resigned after the April 21 attacks, claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) and allegedly carried out by a local group.
Jayasundara and Fernando denied the allegations when they appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating the attacks, which took place despite repeated warnings from the Indian intelligence agencies.
The Sri Lankan government has come under heavy criticism by the opposition for ignoring the near-specific intelligence reports received by the authorities on April 4, more than two weeks before the bombers struck.
President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the defence minister and the minister in charge of police, has opposed the parliamentary inquiry while court cases are being heard on the blasts.
Fernando told the committee that Sirisena was not 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.