President sets extremist monk free while author stuck in jail for work of fiction


An extremist Buddhist monk convicted for contempt of court was set free by the Sri Lankan president while an author held in detention for publishing a short story is forced to seek justice from the country’s top court.

Bodu Bala Sena (BBS-Budddhist Brigade) Chief Galagodaaththe Gnanasara well known for his involvement in violence against minorities, walked free from jail after President Maithripala Sirisena granted the monk a special pardon, just ten months into a six-year jail term.

The pardon came in the wake of anti-Muslim violence that besieged parts of majority Sinhala dominated areas in an apparent response to Easter Sunday blasts, which claimed the lives of more than 250.

Immediately after leaving the prison in Colombo, the BBS leader accompanied by his mother has paid a courtesy call on president Sirisena. Later visiting the topmost Buddhist leadership, he thanked the president and “Sinhala Buddhists who worked tirelessly” for his release.

He was sentenced to prison last August for violently obstructing a court hearing about the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda in 2010.

The belligerent monk accused the judiciary and the journalists wife, Sandya Ekneligoda of launching a witch hunt against military intelligence officials who allegedly carried out the abduction.

Anti hate laws

Two days before the release of the Buddhist Brigade chief, the supreme court granted leave to appeal the detaining an award-winning author for publishing a work of fiction on social media.

Shakthika Sathkumara was detained under tough anti-hate laws that restrict lower courts from granting bail to the accused.

Following a complaint by Buddhist monks the author has been in held in protective custody since April 1.

Police and state law officials have accepted the monks claim that the short story “Ardha” is an affront to Buddhism and fuels religious hatred.

Author Sathkumara had been charged with inciting religious hatred and violating international human rights law under Sri Lanka’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act (2007), section 3(1), which states, “No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

Anyone found guilty under this section faces imprisonment for a term up to ten years.

Shakthika Sathkumara has appealed against his detention as illegal and a violation of his fundamental rights.

The supreme court, which granted leave to proceed, is to take up the case on September 30.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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