Sri Lanka police detain tortured journalist for obtaining legal assistance

By Kithsiri Wijesinghe

Police in Sri Lanka has detained a journalist who went to give a statement about his abduction and torture by a group of armed men.

On 17 March, police officers of the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) have accused Sujeewa Gamage of committing a crime ‘that cannot be treated lightly’ by retaining a lawyer.

The journalist has been taken to the CCD with his wife Nayani Gamage soon after he was discharged from hospital following his treatment for burns and injuries. He was abducted, tortured and dumped by the road in the capital on 10 March.

No legal assistance

As the two have not returned for hours, family members have retained the service of attorney at law Namal Rajapaksha. Police have intimidated him and threatened that Gamage will not be released “because a lawyer has come on behalf of the journalist”.

“Relatives of my client told me that he is been interrogated under duress for hours,” lawyer Rajapaksha told JDS.

“Not only I wasn't allowed to provide legal assistance, police threatened me saying that he wont be released as a lawyer coming to the police station on behalf of him is an offence. I was not even allowed to pass the gate although I explained that he is a torture victim who was just discharged from hospital. An Assistant Superintendent of Police named Anuranga told me that my client will not be released as he has put the government in a difficult position.”

After interrogations that continued for over five hours, Nayani was released past midnight without her husband.

While in hospital, Gamage has told journalists in Colombo that his torturers wanted to know his news sources and of his affiliations with opposition politicians.

Family members fear that statements obtained from Sujeewa Gamage without legal assistance by different police stations while he was distressed might be used to frame him at a time the government is under the spotlight for restricting media freedom.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.