Hijaz Hizbullah likely to be produced in court on Thursday
COLOMBO – The Attorney General has ordered the Police Department to produce detained lawyer Hijaz Omar Hizbullah before a Magistrate’s Court on charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), his department announced on Wednesday (17).
The announcement also said that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has been directed to produce a Principal of a Madrassa school, Mohamed Shakeel, before a Magistrate under the same charges.
Hizbullah’s lawyers said they “expect the police to produce him in court on Thursday (18).”
Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on April 14, 2020, and placed under a detention order by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, under the PTA for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the Easter Sunday bombers and for engaging in activities deemed “detrimental to religious harmony among communities.”
The PTA permits the Sri Lankan government to detain a suspect without any charges for 18 months. Hizbullah’s detention order was renewed on October 14, 2020, and the listing of his case before a Magistrate on October 28, 2020, was postponed to February, reportedly due to the COVID-19 crisis.
In January his lawyers filed a writ petition before the Court of Appeal seeking release from detention and access to their client.
The lawyers submitted and the court noted that Hizbullah did not have confidential access to his lawyers since September.
In the Petition, Hizbullah’s lawyers stated that they were given access to their client only four times and that the authorities were present on all occasions.
During the Appeal Court hearing on December 15, the Attorney General agreed to grant Hizbullah confidential access to counsel.
The Bar Council of Sri Lanka and several international organizations have called for justice for Hizbullah.
Amnesty International expressed extreme concern “that the case and evidence against Hijaz may now be subject to fabrication. A new allegation has emerged that a school supported by the Save the Pearls charity was responsible for preaching “extremism” and even providing the children “weapons training’”
Amnesty said these charges “lack credibility because nearly three months since his arbitrary arrest, authorities have so far been unable to substantiate their claims with evidence. Children who were interviewed by the police are now initiating legal action on the basis that they were interviewed without the presence of a parent or guardian. Through their parents and guardians, the children have filed Fundamental Rights applications with the Supreme Court seeking an interim order for the police to produce all arrest notes, video recordings and statements that the children were made to sign.”
The Colombo Fort Magistrate has stated that CID officers tried to show the children pictures of Hijaz before asking them to identify him as a hate preacher at their school.
“The identification parade has since been called off after objections were raised by Hizbullah’s lawyer, however, this ordeal demonstrates a frank disregard for due process and the willingness of the authorities to attempt to frame Hijaz,” Amnesty said.