Fri, Mar 01, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Sri Lankan court frees Indian cleared of assassination bid

AP, COLOMBO

A magistrate on Wednesday acquitted an Indian man who was detained for five months over an alleged plot to kill Sri Lanka’s president after police cleared the man of wrongdoing.

Police investigators informed the Colombo Magistrate Court that there was no evidence to justify charges against Mersalin Thomas.

Acting Magistrate Jayantha Dias Nanayakkara ordered Thomas’ release, but remanded him for contravening Sri Lanka’s immigration law by staying in the country without a valid visa.

Thomas was arrested in September last year at the house of Namal Kumara, a police informant and self-described anti-corruption activist.

Kumara told authorities about the alleged plot to kill Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

It was not clear what Thomas was doing in Sri Lanka at the time of his arrest.

Kumara also revealed that he had a taped conversation with then-Sri Lankan Terrorism Investigation Division head Nalaka de Silva, describing a plan for a hired killer to assassinate Sirisena.

Silva was also arrested and has been detained.

It was not possible to reach Kumara for comment.

The alleged plot threatened to damage relations between Sri Lanka and India after an Indian newspaper reported that Sirisena had accused India’s intelligence services of involvement.

Thomas professed his innocence from the start and Sirisena later denied the newspaper’s account.

The alleged plot also led to political upheaval in Sri Lanka, with Sirisena in October last year firing his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the entire Cabinet.

He accused a Cabinet minister of being involved in the plot and said that Wickremesinghe’s government moved slowly to investigate it.

After a Supreme Court ruling and because of a lack of majority in parliament for Rajapaksa, Sirisena had to reappoint Wickremesinghe in December last year.

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