Court tells CID to probe journalist if she obstructed investigations

Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne today (21) informed the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) it could investigate and institute legal action against journalist Dharisha Bastians if she had tried to obstruct their investigations into the alleged Swiss Embassy abduction case.

The Chief Magistrate noted this following a clarification by lawyers for Dharisha Bastians regarding the date her laptop computer had been seized by the CID.

On June 16, attorney at law Shiraz Noordeen who appeared as counsel for Bastians told court that the laptop may on have been seized by the CID on June 4th because the police had visited the reporter’s private residence on two occasions without a warrant.

When the case against Garnier Francis, the Swiss Embassy Visa officer came up in court today, lawyers for Bastians presented an affidavit from the journalist’s father-in-law, informing court that the laptop had been taken into the CID custody on June 10th. The lawyers also expressed regret about the miscommunication regarding the date of seizure.

However appearing in court for the CID ASP Merril Ranjan Lamahewa objected to this clarification.

The CID ASP said the journalist had “obstructed the CID investigation from the beginning”.

The Chief Magistrate having clarified that the mix up over the date was not intentional on the part of the journalist’s lawyers said the court was satisfied by the clarification from counsel. However the Chief Magistrate informed the CID that it could investigate the matter and bring legal action against the journalist if it transpires she had obstructed their probe.

The case in which Swiss Embassy staffer Garnier Barrister Francis is a suspect for making a false complaint was then postponed till September 8th.

Bastians expressed willingness to cooperate with the criminal investigation in a public statement made last month.

Bastians was the former editor in chief of the Sunday Observer and is the Sri Lanka reporter for the New York Times.

Last month five international human rights organisations called on the Government to end the persecution and harassment of the journalist whose name has been linked to the case involving a staffer of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo.

“The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Front Line Defenders condemn this assault on human rights and press freedom in Sri Lanka and call on the Sri Lanka Police to immediately stop the harassment and ensure Bastians’ safety,” the statement said. (Colombo Gazette)

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