Sri Lanka files charges against 25 Easter Sunday bombing suspects

Attorney general asks chief justice to appoint a special three-member high court bench to hear the cases speedily.

The April 2019 attacks singled out three churches and three hotels [File: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Sri Lanka has filed 23,270 charges against 25 people in connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks on churches and hotels that killed 269 people, according to the president’s office.

The charges filed on Tuesday under the country’s anti-terror law include conspiring to murder, aiding and abetting, collecting arms and ammunition and attempted murder, it said on Wednesday.

The attorney general also asked the chief justice to appoint a special three-member high court bench to hear the cases speedily, it said in a statement.

Two local Muslim groups that allegedly pledged allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group were blamed for the six near-simultaneous suicide bomb attacks which hit three churches and three hotels on April 21, 2019.

Another suicide bomber who had entered a fourth hotel left without setting off his bomb but later died by suicide after detonating his explosives at a different location.

Friction and a communication breakdown between then-President Maithripala Sirisena and then-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were blamed for the government’s failure to act on near-specific foreign intelligence warnings ahead of the attacks.

That led to the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa later in 2019 on a platform of national security.

Rajapaksa was a former army officer and a defence official who had played a decisive role in defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels and ending a 26-year civil war.

The head of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, has repeatedly charged that the investigation into the blasts was not being conducted properly.

He said he believes the real conspirators are still at large and has accused authorities of trying to shield the masterminds.

Ranjith wrote a strong letter to Rajapaksa last month, stating there are allegations that some members of the state intelligence services knew and met with the attacker who initially did not explode his bomb and asked the authorities to investigate.

Citing speeches in parliament by the legislators, Ranjith said intelligence personnel also allegedly had a suspect released from police custody.

The president’s office said presidential legal affairs director Harigupta Rohanadeera had sent a detailed reply to Ranjith, but did not release the letter.

Source: AP