Sri Lanka quizzes monk over anti-Muslim riots

Leader of right-wing Bodu Bala Sena is accused of provocative speeches that lead to deadly violence last month.

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    Sri Lanka quizzes monk over anti-Muslim riots
    Gnanasara has denied charges and blamed Muslim leaders for the June violence [File - EPA]

    Sri Lankan police have questioned controversial Buddhist monk after he was accused of provoking deadly anti-Muslim riots in the ethnically divided nation, officials have said.

    The country's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) grilled the General Secretary of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or Army of Buddhist Forces, Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara, and its National Organiser, Witharandeniye Nanda on Wednesday.

    Police believes Gnanasara gave controversial speeches in the coastal town of Aluthgama that led to widespread anti-Muslim riots in which four people were killed, and scores injured.

    Police spokesperson, Ajith Rohana, said that duo was summoned to "help with the investigations".

    He said 119 people, including 95 Sinhalese and 24 Muslims, have been arrested in connection with the riots. So far, 92 individuals have been produced in court.

    After the questioning, Gnanasara denied charges and blamed the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and Justice Minister for the violence.

    He said that there was reasonable suspicion that Rauff Hakeem was behind the attacks in the resort towns of Aluthgama and Beruwela.

    But the General Secretary of SLMC, Hassan Ali, rejected the monk's accusation saying that his party was cooperating in the police investigation that would ensure justice for those affected in the violence.

    The monk also accused the police and human rights activists of portraying the BBS as "terrorists" and not paying attention to the "real issues".

    Gnanasara said that it was the sole right of the Sinhalese Buddhist to protect Sri Lanka from all other forces.

    Senior members of the government have, meanwhile, joined the calls for Gnanasara's arrest.

    Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Minister of National Languages and Social Integration, said: "He is a clear suspect in the recent riots, the police must arrest him and the other members of the BBS if they wish to curtail the growing religious violence in the country."

    He said the police had taken the right step in questioning Gnanasara but it must do more.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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