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Hearings into disappearance of opposition journalist continue

UPDATE: A heads-up for Sri Lanka press freedom watchers (CPJ, 1 June 2012)

(CPJ/IFEX) - 25 April 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

In Sri Lanka: Protecting Peiris, hounding the victim's family

By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator

The magistrate's hearings into the January 24, 2010 disappearance of opposition journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda continue at a tortuously slow pace. A correspondent in Colombo shared the details of the April 24 hearing, where Eknelygoda's wife Sandhya and the couple's two teenage sons continue to press for any news of Prageeth. The family's attorney said he may have to press Sri Lanka's Appeal Court to order former Attorney General Mohan Peiris to testify about the comments he made at the U.N. Committee Against Torture on November 9, 2011 in Geneva. The government has ignored the January 2012 ruling by the Court that Peiris could be called in as a witness.

As we reported in a November 2011 posting, "Sri Lanka's savage smokescreen," Peiris told the Asian Human Rights Commission that Eknelygoda had taken refuge in a foreign country and that the campaign against his disappearance is a hoax, although he failed then and ever since to provide information about where Eknelygoda has supposedly fled.

The government's attorney at the most recent magistrate's hearing argued that, because Peiris might have been speaking on behalf of the government at the Human Rights Commission, he cannot be held responsible for his remarks and need not appear in court.

Last month, we reported on the government's tactics to verbally intimidate Sandhya and her two sons at the magistrate's hearing. Eknelygoda had incurred the wrath of the government by appearing at hearings in Geneva, where a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution called for an investigation into Sri Lanka's alleged abuses of international humanitarian law during its war with Tamil separatists.

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