Abducted Sri Lanka journalist's wife: Military derails case

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The wife of an abducted Sri Lankan journalist is accusing the military of trying to derail a court case in which nine soldiers have been charged with her husband's abduction and enforced disappearance nearly 10 years ago.

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Sandya Ekneligoda, who has struggled for years to seek justice for her abducted husband, Prageeth Ekneligoda, said some officers serving in the military intelligence “are trying to destroy evidence and intimidate the witnesses."

Prageeth went missing in 2010 during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the brother of current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Prageeth, an analyst and cartoonist, wrote against alleged corruption, nepotism and Rajapaksa’s conduct during a military campaign against ethnic Tamil rebels in ending Sri Lanka's long civil war.

The case did not make much headway until Rajapaksa was defeated in the 2015 presidential election and a newly elected government initiated fresh inquiries.

The Rajapaksa brothers were returned to power again with the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in last month's presidential election. They had been critical of investigations of military personnel for alleged crimes against journalists. Gotabaya during his election campaign promised to free all incarcerated soldiers after a period of rehabilitation.

Formal charges were filed in the High Court last month against nine army intelligence officers in connection with Prageeth's abduction. They were released on bail and the case will be taken up again on Jan. 20.

Sandya told reporters on Tuesday that among the witnesses are former military personnel. “Let the witnesses speak the truth, what they know and saw without any interference. Let's allow truth to prevail," she said.

She said that some military intelligence officers "are attempting to intimidate the witnesses through various parties and to disrupt the court case.

She appealed to President Rajapaksa to advise the intelligence officers not to interfere with the case.

“Me and my kids would be able to achieve justice only if the judicial process takes place in an independent manner,” she said. “This is a crime, don't let them interfere with the court's proceedings. If that happens, we will be deprived of justice.”

During former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure, dozens of journalists were killed, abducted and tortured, and some fled the country fearing for their lives. Others were killed or disappeared during the civil war that ended in 2009 with the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels.

In some cases, military soldiers were arrested and later released on bail.