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  • Lawyer says teachers were forced to implicate Hejaaz
    Two Fundamental Rights petitions filed on behalf of two teachers of the Al- Zuhriya Arabic College said that two teachers were forced by the Criminal Investigations Department to implicate Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah.

    The two petitions were filed by lawyer Erik Balasooriya was supported before the Supreme Court yesterday.

    M.A. Sumanthiran PC told the court that the two teachers had told their lawyer Balasooriya during a consultation held in the presence of two CID officers who had an audio recording device, that the officers had promised “leniency” if they implicate Hizbullah.

    “They were forced to implicate...
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  • හිජාස්ට විරුද්ධව සාක්කි දෙන්නැයි ගුරුවරුන් දෙදෙනකුට බල කරලා?
    June 1, 2021 මදුරංකුලියේ මද්‍රසා පාසලක ගුරුවරුන් දෙදෙනකු බව කියමින් අත්අඩංගුවට ගත් දෙදෙනා මූලික අයිතිවාසිකම් පෙත්සම් දෙකක් ගොනු කර ඇති බවත්, නීතීඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතාට එරෙහිව සාක්කි ලබා දෙන ලෙසට විමර්ශන නිලධාරීන් ඔවුන්ට...
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  • Detained Maulavis claim under pressure to frame Hejaaz
    Two Maulavis who have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), have informed court through their lawyer that they are under pressure to frame human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah. Attorney-at-law Erick Balasooriya had filed a Fundamental Rights petition alleging that the two Maulavis are being coerced to frame Hizbullah. In the Petition, Balasooriya said the Moulavis do not know Hizbullah nor did they conduct any extremist teaching at the Al-Zuhriya madrasa. When the Moulavis were first produced before the Colombo Magistrates court yesterday, Balsooriya informed court that the Moulavis intend making a statements to him. The matter was thereafter transferred to the Fort Magistrates court. Meanwhile, President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran who appeared before the Fort Magistrate on behalf of the two Maulavis today (Tuesday)...
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  • A country obsessed with racial and religious conflicts
    Sri Lanka, as a nation has been wasting time debating sensitive racial and religious issues for the past several years, without gaining anything. Only thing the country has been witnessing as a result is communities distancing themselves from each other, while portraying a false unity among them. 
    The situation seems to have come to a head with people of various communities being emotionally charged over these issues subsequent to the attacks on three Christian churches and three major tourist hotels by the Islamic terrorists on April 21, 2019, which was also the Easter Sunday.
    The terrorist attacks which caught the nation off-guard demanded united action by all communities and political parties to handle the immediate situation and to prevent future recurrence of...
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  • Burqa ban: Security, human rights and male chauvinism
    A few years ago, on a Turkish beach exclusively for women, a bikini-clad woman offered her prayers. The video clip of the woman going through the postures of the Muslim prayer went viral and created a major debate among the Muslims.  Some censured her for not adhering to the dress code for prayers, but others said what mattered was her piety and not the dress.
    Following the release of the Easter Sunday terror attack commission report, Sri Lanka is mulling whether to ban burqa – the Muslim dress that covers a female body from head to toe – and niqab, which only shows the eyes of the wearer, but the issue needs to be looked at from human rights, security and spiritual angles to come to a right decision.
    If at the one end of the spectrum is public nudity, burqa will...
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  • South African Muslim bodies seek intervention over burqa ban in Sri Lanka Foreign Minister of South Africa urged to intervene
    South African Muslim organisations have called on the country’s foreign minister to intervene in the proposed Sri Lankan ban on the burqa and closure of hundreds of Islamic schools. This followed the announcement by Sri Lanka''s minister for public security, Sarath Weerasekera, during the weekend that his country would ban the traditional full-face covering worn by some Muslim women because it posed a threat to national security. This was quickly followed by a statement from the Sri Lankan foreign ministry, which said a decision would only be taken on the proposal after consultations and further discussion. The United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) has now asked South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor to intervene in the matter. UUCSA had earlier also called for such intervention when...
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  • Banning Burqas and Madrasas illegal: Fmr MP
    Former MP M.M .Zuhair said yesterday it would be unlawful to ban Burqas and Madrasas. Issuing a statement, he said some observations and recommendations of the Commission on Easter Sunday attacks are invasive of the absolute protection given to every person under Article 10 of the Sri Lanka Constitution. He said the Commission’s report though good in parts, can be seen as an attempted assault on Islam for the heinous crimes of a dozen suicide bombers. The right to the freedom stated in Article 10 is ‘assured to all religions’ under Article 9. No one, not even Presidential Commissions can invite or promote the State or any limb of the Executive or Judiciary to violate the freedom guaranteed under Article 10.This protection is guaranteed notwithstanding any national security concerns, as the law stands today. In this constitutionally...
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  • Pakistan says likely ban on Niqab in SL to serve as injury on Muslims
    The Ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Saad Khattak today said the likely ban on Niqab in Sri Lanka will only serve as an injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe. In a tweet, the Ambassador said that at today’s economically difficult time due to COVID-19 pandemic and other image related challenges faced by the country at the international fora, such divisive steps in the name of security, besides accentuating economic difficulties, will only serve as fillip to further strengthen wider apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country. Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera said today that in addition to banning the burqa, the cabinet proposal would also include banning the niqab which covers the face of the wearer except the eyes. The...
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  • යුරෝපයේ රටවල් 8 කින් හිස්බුල්ලාට සහාය
    මානව හිමිකම් වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටින ප්‍රමුඛ නීතිඥවරයකු වන හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා වැනි මානව හිමිකම් ආරක්ෂා කරන්නන්ට ගරු කරන ලෙස ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටිමින් යුරෝපීය රටවල් අටක මානව හිමිකම් තානාපතිවරුන් ඒකාබද්ධ නිවේදනයක් නිකුත් කර තිබේ. නෙදර්ලන්තය, ජර්මනිය, එංගලන්තය ස්වීඩනය, එස්ටෝනියාව, ලිතුවේනියාව, ලක්සම්බර්ග් සහ ෆින්ලන්තය...
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  • Eight EU HR Ambassadors raise concern over Hejaaz Hizbullah
    In a statement issued today, Eight Human Rights  Ambassadors of Europe including the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden called on the Sri Lankan government to " respect human rights defenders such as Hizbullah". The statement issued by the Ambassadors of the United Kingsdom, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and the Netherlands said that after ten months of Detention, Hejaaz Hizbullah was being accused of speech related offences. Prominent Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department on the 14th of April 2020. He was thereafter accused in the media of various activities related to terrorism. He was thereafter produced on the 18th of February 2021 where the Attorney General informed court that the entire case against Hizbullah was to be based on purported statements made by children. Hizbullah...
    Read More...
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Why Sri Lanka jailed a Muslim lawyer without charge for 6 months

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The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, the EU and UN Human Rights Core Group on Sri Lanka have expressed their concerns on the arbitrary arrest and detention of Hizbullah [Photo courtesy: Family]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, the EU and UN Human Rights Core Group on Sri Lanka have expressed their concerns on the arbitrary arrest and detention of Hizbullah [Photo courtesy: Family]

Why Sri Lanka jailed a Muslim lawyer without charge for 6 months

Rights groups and members of civil society have raised concerns over the continued incarceration of a Muslim lawyer in Sri Lanka, adding that his prolonged detention “had a chilling effect on anyone involved in peaceful dissent and advocacy”.

Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent human rights lawyer, was arrested on “terrorism” charges in April and has remained in detention without charges, with rights groups saying he has been denied due process rights.

Sri Lankan authorities said he had been detained for links to the perpetrators of the 2019 Easter Bombings, which left more than 250 people dead and injured more than 500 – the Indian Ocean island nation’s worst attack since the end of civil war in 2009.  Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the police had not presented “any credible evidence” against Hizbullah, adding that he was denied his due process rights and kept in custody despite calls from UN experts “that prison populations must be reduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19”.  The president’s spokesperson Mohan Samaranayake did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.  Hizbullah, a lawyer at the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, was arrested under the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which allows the government to detain suspects without charge and or having to present them before a judge.  “Even though the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration has said that it does not want to continue its support to the Human Rights Council resolution, the Sri Lankan government remains obliged to keep its pledges, including to repeal PTA, regardless of the party that might be in power,” Ganguly added.  A person can be detained for 90 days under the PTA, with the option to renew the incarceration period for another 90 days for up to 18 months.  The New York-based HRW has dubbed the PTA a “draconian” law, one that the previous Sri Lankan government headed by Maithripala Sirisena pledged to revoke in a 2015 Human Rights Council resolution.  Rights groups have raised concerns over shrinking space for dissent since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – a Buddhist hardliner – took power last November on the promise to boost security in the island nation in the wake of the deadly bombings.  In August, the HRW said the government of President Gotabaya has waged “a campaign of fear and intimidation against human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and others challenging government policy”.  According to Thyagi Ruwanpathiran, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, Hizbullah’s arrest “had a chilling effect on anyone involved in peaceful dissent and advocacy, be it lawyers, human rights defenders or members of the minority Muslim community”.  “There is a real fear of being targeted for your professional work where you could suffer reprisals from the state,” she told Al Jazeera.  The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, the European Union and UN Human Rights Core Group on Sri Lanka have also expressed their concerns regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of Hizbullah.  A local magistrate court in the capital, Colombo, is hearing his case again on October 28, but activists say there is little hope of bail.  ‘Pure fabrication’ Of the several accusations made against Hizbullah include his relationship with Yusuf Mohammad Ibrahim, a business owner, whose sons Inshaf and Ilham were two of the seven perpetrators of the Easter Sunday bombings. Hizbullah was Ibrahim’s lawyer.  Hizbullah, along with Ibrahim, also served on the board of the Save the Pearl charity, which works with underprivileged children.  Ilham also served on the board briefly in 2016 briefly, until he was asked to step down, a report by Amnesty International said. According to the human rights group, these associations with Ibrahim and Save the Pearl were being used to detain Hizbullah.

“The detention order says that Hejaaz [Hizbullah] is being investigated for allegedly ‘aiding and abetting’ the Easter Sunday bombers and for engaging in activities deemed ‘detrimental to the religious harmony among communities'”, the Amnesty report said.

Another accusation against Hizbullah is that he indirectly, through a school funded by Save the Pearl, fed “extremist” ideas and thoughts to children between the ages of 8-13, Hafeel Farisz, one of Hizbullah’s lawyers, told Al Jazeera.

The children from Al-Zuhriya Arabic College in Puttalam district were interrogated by the police for several days in April, during which they were threatened and coerced into accusing Hizbullah of providing “terrorist” training, said the lawyer.

Farisz said the children described accusations against Hizbullah as “pure fabrication”.

It was also revealed in the media that the children questioned had filed for legal action against the police for “infringement of their fundamental rights”.

‘Real fear’
Critics say Hizbullah was targeted because of his work on interfaith relations and reconciliation amid rising Islamophobia in the island nation fraught with sectarian and ethnic divide.

Hilmy Ahmed, CEO of Young Asia Television, told Al Jazeera from Colombo that Hizbullah was a “victim of the hate campaign that has been staged-managed by extremist Buddhists”.

“Hejaaz [Hizbullah] is a non-violent and extremely values-based individual who would never promote any form of extremism let alone violence,” Ahmed said, adding he had known the accused for more than 20 years.

Since the Easter bombing, anti-Muslim sentiment has been running high, with rights groups blaming Buddhist nationalists for “hate speech” and “mob violence” against Muslims.

Groups such as Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Buddhist far-right group, has been accused behind attacks against Muslims since 2009 when the Sri Lankan forces defeated Tamil separatists, ending a civil war that lasted nearly 30 years.

The BBS has previously successfully run an anti-halal campaign and called for a ban on the burqa, a full-body veil worn by some Muslim women that covers the face as well.

Muslims, who comprise about 10 percent of the population, say they have faced discrimination and hate speech from hardline Buddhist groups, who wield influence in the current governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party led by the Rajapaksa brothers.

Earlier this year, the government decision to cremate Muslims who died of COVID-19, caused anguish in the community, as the traditional Islamic funeral was denied. Families said it was against WHO guidelines and done to harass Muslims, who were blamed for spreading the virus that has killed more than one million people globally.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/15/sri-lanka-muslim-lawyer

 

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