A South Asia researcher at Amnesty International says rights groups and members of civil society have raised concerns over the continued incarceration of a prominent Muslim human rights lawyer in Sri Lanka.
Hejaaz Hizbullah was arrested on alleged trumped up “terrorism” charges in April this year with rights groups saying he has been denied due process rights.
Sri Lankan authorities say he had been detained for links to the perpetrators of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, which left more than 250 people dead and injured more than 500 others in the Indian Ocean island nation’s worst attack since the end of civil war
Speaking to Radio Islam from Sri Lanka, Thyagi Ruwanpathiran says Hizbullah’s family believes he was targeted because of his profession and his work on interfaith relations and reconciliation amid rising Islamophobia in country fraught with sectarian and ethnic divide.
“His arrest came at a time when Sri Lanka was on lockdown for COVID. He wasn’t made aware of the charges against him and in fact the authorities came to his house saying that they were worried he may have had come into contact with the Coronavirus. So he was asked to remain at home until authorities came and actually he ended up getting arrested for something else.”
Ruwanpathiran says there is no evidence that Hizbullah has any connections with the suspects involved in the bombings.
“So the short answer is no because even after the police have detained him now for over six months, they’ve not been able to substantiate any of that suspicions with any credible evidence. If they had any credible evidence, they would have already charged him.”
Ruwanpathiran says there is a real fear among journalists and other professionals in Sri Lanka of being targeted for their professional work including reprisals from the state and police.
Listen to the interview with Thyagi Ruwanpathiran