Shootout with STF: Seven suspects remanded

Seven suspects including UNP Western Provincial Councillor, Randir Asiri Rodrigo involved in the shootout with the Special Task Force (STF) on October 23 were remanded until November 7 by Minuwangoda Magistrate Sheelani Chathuranthi Perera yesterday. Court sessions were disrupted on several occasions as Police failed to submit proper facts regarding the incident.

The other suspects thus remanded are; residents of Minuwangoda Assannawatte, Janaka Dinesh Jayakody and R.P. Nihal Rajapaksa, resident of Uswetikeyyawe Sampath Sheere Kumara Sovis, resident of Ragama Thewatte road, Jude Kumara Saparamadu, resident of Vaikkala Katiyala, W. Deel Harols Dabare and Komalada Silva from Palugahawela.

The shootout which had taken place in the Divulapitiya Henpitagedara area resulted in the death of Nawalage Thushara Lekshitha Cooray (35), a resident of Minuwangoda Nilpanagoda and a father of one. Suranga Dinesh who sustained injuries during the shooting, was admitted to the Gampaha hospital, and the Organized Crime Division requested that the Magistrate pay him a visit and recommend further action. Their request was acquiesced to.

The Defence Counsel had pointed out that the suspects were beaten inhumanely by the STF and asked than they be subjected to a medical examination by the Judicial Medical Officer. The Magistrate ordered the Negombo Prison Director to obtain a medical report of the suspects and submit to court.

The suspects had been arrested under the Fire Arms ordinance, by the Organized Crime Division as they pointed out that they found a grenade and toy pistol in their vehicle but their lawyer rejected the claim and asked that the confiscated items be noted in the court register. The Magistrate agreed with this request.

According to the B report filed by the Police, the suspects had been accused of murder with regard to the incident on October 23 and when the Magistrate questioned the Organized Crime Division on it, the Division ASP Shermal Perera denied it.

The Defence Counsel pointed out that if the suspects are to be charged with murder, so should the STF. The magistrate who agreed on this point asked that the Police withdraw their B report and submit a more accurate one and suspended sessions.

The preliminary magisterial inquiries into the death was conducted by the Acting Magistrate Mangala Waranakulasuriya at the official Magistrate residence. The STF officers provided testimony at the hearing and the media was not allowed to cover it. The next session of evidence is to be heard on October 27.

When Court reconvened at 4 pm yesterday, the Organized Crime Division, Chief Inspector J.C. Janaka Kumara submitted a fresh B report to court, but that too had various mistakes and the magistrate asked that a more accurate one be presented. It was thus postponed for another half hour.

When the amended report was submitted for the third time, lawyers representing the accused; Dilani Shalika Ranjith Dissanayake, Sarana Karunaratne and Sarala Karunaratne pointed out that the Organized Crime Division was insulting the court with their false reports and that they were trying to conceal facts from court and asked that the post mortem inquiries into the death be conducted in open court.

But due to time constraints, the Magistrate pointed out that the post mortem inquiries had to be conducted in the official residence and that she would note down the testimony of all witnesses and those involved in the case. 

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