Image credits: PTI/AP
Sri Lanka police officers on April 24 arrested Rishad Bathiudeen, a top Muslim leader and former member of the parliament over his connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks that took the lives of over 250 people. As pressure on authorities mounted to expedite its investigation into the 2019 suicide bombings that sent shock waves across the globe, detectives took the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Party into custody along with his brother Riyaaj under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). As per reports, Sri Lankan police spokesperson Ajith Rohana said that they were detained in pre-dawn raids on their homes in Colombo.
"They were arrested under the PTA based on circumstantial and scientific evidence that they had connections with the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks," Rohana said in a statement.
The arrests came just three days after the head of Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith accused the government of allowing the inquiry in Easter Attacks stall for such a long time and demanded access to reports. Even though the authorities arrested hundreds of people just days after the suicide attacks on hotels and churches by local extremists took place on Easter Sunday in 2019, no one has yet been charged. Bathiudeen also took to Twitter ahead of his arrest and called it "unjust."
The CID has been standing outside my house in Boudhaloka Mawatha since 1.30 am today attempting to arrest me without a charge. They have already arrested my brother. I have been in Parliament, and have cooperated with all lawful authorities until now. This is unjust.— Rishad Bathiudeen (@rbathiudeen) April 23, 2021
Meanwhile, Ranjith who led the recommendations on the second anniversary of the Easter attacks, reportedly said on April 21 that he was “deeply saddened” by the lack of progress on the inquiry. He also reaffirmed his call for swift action against the perpetrators of the attacks that as per the Associated Press report, killed 269 people. He noted that “political posturing and the need to safeguard alliances" was hindering the probe.
Ranjith, a senior Sri Lankan church official has asked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to provide him with the access to presidential commission’s report on the Easter Sunday bombings that also killed several churchgoers. His spokesperson, the Rev. Camillus Fernando, said on April 19 that Ranjith has written to Sri Lankan President to make his request. The presidential commission report on the gruesome attacks has not yet been made public.
Rajapaksa in his Independence Day speech earlier this month said that it has been referred to relevant officials to go ahead with the prosecution. However, it still remains unclear if the report will be released. As per the Associated Press, two local Muslim extremist groups that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group have been blamed for the coordinated suicide bombings on six locations on April 21, 2019.