COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNS) — The attorney general of Sri Lanka has requested the chief justice appoint a special trial-at-bar to hear cases against 25 suspects accused of involvement in the 2019 Easter attacks that killed 279 people, including 37 foreign nationals in three cities.
The 23,270 charges filed include conspiracy, preparation, aiding and abetting, collection of explosives and weapons, murder and attempted murder, reported ucanews.com.
It said Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam sent indictments to Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya seeking the appointment of a trial-at-bar, which involves a hearing with three judges.
Hariguptha Rohanadheera, director general of legal affairs at the presidential secretariat, responded to a letter from Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and said the cases could be filed by mid-September. The cardinal and bishops had written President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urging action over the bombings.
Rohanadheera said the president had ordered government officials to find those responsible for the attacks that hit three churches during Mass as well as some luxury hotels.
The bishops warned they would be forced to work for action through alternative ways if justice was not served. They questioned whether the cases to be filed against suspects included those who masterminded the attacks, ucanews.com reported.
“We are faced with the puzzle as to why and for what reason those in authority are delaying or neglecting their duty in implementing the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which has cost the public millions of rupees,” said the letter.
Bishops, civil rights activists and opposition parties have expressed concern over the investigation process.
Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, former director of the National Catholic Center for Social Communications, said there was serious suspicion that the relevant agencies were not carrying out their duties properly in connection with the investigations.
Josephin Ranasinghe, a local Catholic, said the victims had watched the drama unfold for more than two years with no satisfactory outcome.
“More than two years have passed, some culprits have been arrested and some have suddenly been released. Meanwhile, different stories come through the media,” she told ucanews.com.
Former Cabinet minister Rishad Bathiudeen, who was detained for aiding and abetting the suicide bombers, was remanded until the case against him was concluded. The father of Alaudeen Ahmed Musth, a suicide attacker, was acquitted of all charges against him. He had been in custody for nearly two years.
Ucanews.com reported Catholics have organized demonstrations to seek justice for victims in Negombo, one of three cities where bombs went off. In March, thousands of Catholics nationwide attended Mass dressed in black and protested against the lack of justice.