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Sri Lanka Begins Trials Connected To 2019 Easter Bombings Case

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) –  A Sri Lankan court began the first of three trials connected to bombings that killed 270 people on the island in 2019, amidst appeals for greater accountability from victim support groups.

In the trial, on Monday, former national police chief Pujith Jayasundara was charged with failing to act on repeated intelligence warnings of a possible terror attack.

His lawyer, Ranjith Dehiwala,  said a total of 855 charges of murder and attempted murder were read out and a total of 1,215 witnesses had been listed to give evidence but not all may be called.

“Our position is the former police chief is not guilty. He did not intentionally aid or abet the attacks and there was no omission on his part that caused the attacks.’’

Ex-Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, the top official in the defence ministry faces similar charges in another trial. Neither he nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

Both men are out on bail.

The trial of 24 men accused of carrying out the attacks begins on Tuesday.

Police filed over 23,000 charges against the suspects, including conspiring to murder, aiding and abetting the attacks, and collecting arms and ammunition.

The suspects include Mohammad Naufer, who officials say masterminded the attacks and is linked to Islamic State.

The string of attacks carried out on April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday, targeted three churches and three hotels, killing 267 people, including at least 45 foreign nationals.

The attacks, the worst in Sri Lanka’s turbulent history, also injured about 500 people, mostly belonging to the island’s minority Christian community.

On Sunday, dozens of Catholic community members held protests and laid flowers at multiple events organized to remember those lost in the attacks.

Participants appealed to the government to support survivors and ensure the trials are allowed to proceed without political interference.

Eranga Gunasekera, a member of a victims support group, during a remembrance ceremony held in Colombo said “we want genuine justice from this process.

“That is what we are appealing for the officials to deliver. We have been waiting a long time and we want the real people responsible held accountable for what happened.’’


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