Colombo High Court acquits PTA accused

A suspect charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), whose case was transferred from the Trincomalee High Court to Colombo by the Attorney General, was acquitted by the Colombo High Court on Thursday.

The accused Kangaratnam Jeevaratnam was arrested on 29 June 2007 on suspicion of being in possession of a lorry laden with 1008 kilos of high powered explosives known as RDX.

The said offence is punishable with death or life sentence in terms of Emergency Regulation No. 1405/14 proclaimed under the Public Security Ordinance.

While the trial was in progress in the High Court of Trincomalee, the Attorney General by his fiat (an authoritative determination) transferred the case to the Special High Court in Colombo.

After nearly two years of trial, the judgment was delivered last Thursday (26) by the High Court Judge Piyasena Ranasinghe.

Initially when the prosecution sought to mark as evidence a confession alleged to have been given by the accused to Superintendent of Police of the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) S. L. V. Ranasinghe, the Court rejected the confession on the basis that it was not made voluntarily by the accused.

Several witnesses including the Government Analyst A. Weliyanga, Naval officers including Admiral Nandika Silva, Petty Officer Janaka Sampath and police officers from TID had been called as witnesses to prove the prosecution case.

The defence in the process of the trial challenged the integrity of the inward journey of the productions, namely the RDX explosives sent to the government analyst.  The defence claimed that the chain of custody of the productions was broken and therefore it is defective and should not be accepted as evidence. The defence had earlier raised doubts whether the Government Analyst had in fact made a journey all the way to Colombo from Trincomalee the same day the lorry was alleged to have been recovered with explosives in Trincomalee.

The High Court Judge observed there are serious contradictions between prosecution witnesses Admiral Nandika Silva who gave evidence that he rushed to the scene of the incident on a tipoff and another naval officer Janaka Sampath.

He was of the opinion that serious questions arise as to whether the explosive laden vehicle was in fact recovered from the accused and also as to the manner in which the raid was conducted.

Having considered the above matters, the High Court Judge determined that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt and acquitted the accused.

Senior State Counsel Nayana Wickramasekara appeared for the prosecution. K.S. Ratnavale with Suranga Bandara and G. Ranitha Mayooran appeared for the accused.

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