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The wife of an abducted Sri Lankan journalist is accusing the military of trying to derail a court case in which nine soldiers have been charged with her husband’s abduction and murder nearly ten years ago. Sandya Ekneligoda said some officers serving in military intelligence “are trying to destroy evidence and intimidate the witnesses.”
Her husband Prageeth Ekneligoda went missing on January 24, 2010 during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is the brother of current Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Evidence withheld from investigation
The case has reportedly been delayed due to attempts to withhold evidence.
Two military intelligence officials confessed to abducting and killing Prageeth who had been a fierce critic of the Rajapaksa regime. The officers told the magistrate court that they had carried out an order by the former president.
However, investigators would have to secure official documents from the Sri Lanka Army regarding mobile phone numbers issued to its personnel, vehicle running charts and leave registers which are considered concrete evidence to the abduction case. These are some of the pieces of evidence that are allegedly being withheld by the military.
52-year-old Sandya has appealed to the current president to advise the intelligence officers not to interfere with the case. “Me and my kids would be able to achieve justice only if the judicial process takes place in an independent manner. This is a crime, don’t let them interfere with the court’s proceedings. If that happens, we will be deprived of justice,” she has said.
Journalist abductions in Sri Lanka
Mahinda Rajapaksa served as the president of Sri Lanka from November 2005 to January 2015, up until the final years of the Sri Lankan civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government. The LTTE is seen as a terrorist organization founded in 1970 in Sri Lanka. During his presidency, Mahinda appointed younger brother Gotabaya, as the secretary of defense in control of the government’s military, intelligence and police forces.
The Rajapaksa regime reportedly prevented journalists from traveling to LTTE-controlled areas and labeled journalists who reported on abuses committed by the Sri Lankan government ‘Tiger sympathizers.’ At least 14 journalists were reportedly killed in Sri Lanka and more than 20 fled the country due to death threats during the regime.
One such case was Lasantha Wickrematunge who was the co-founder of Sri Lanka’s Sunday Leader newspaper. He was reportedly assassinated in January 2009.