Criminal Investigation Detectives yesterday arrested an Army officer and two Sergeants over the May 2008 attack on journalist Keith Noyahr. The arrests came after the trio were summoned to CID headquarters on Friday and interrogated.
The trio are Major Prabath Bulathwatte, Sergeant Duminda Weeraratne and Sergeant Hemachandra Perera.
The formal arrests were made yesterday after interrogation overnight. Two more soldiers from the Army’s Military Intelligence are now being interrogated.
Probing the case was a CID Task Force that has been investigating a string of incidents – murders, abductions and assaults on media personalities.
They included the killing of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremetunga, the disappearance of Lanka E-news journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda and the attack on Rivira Editor Upali Tennekoon.
The three suspects were produced before the Additional Magistrate A.T.N. Fernando at her residence yesterday by Inspector Nishantha Silva. He told the Magistrate that the evidence collected through mobile phone records corroborated the accounts given to CID detectives by witnesses including family members. He also told the Magistrate that Mr Noyahr, then Associate Editor of the Nation and now domiciled in Australia, was followed for hours by his abductors before he was seized from his Dehiwala residence.
Inspector Silva said that the suspects had taken Mr. Noyahr to a Military Intelligence hideout in Dompe and tortured him. They had wanted to know the sources of the stories he had revealed in his newspaper. He said the suspects had planned to kill Mr. Noyahr but had brought him back to a location near his home after a telephone call came from a VIP.
Counsel who represented the three Army personnel submitted that their clients were being politically victimised since Mr. Noyahr was not even in the country to testify. They said their clients should be produced in courts so they will receive a fair hearing. Additional Magistrate remanded the suspects till March 3 but directed the CID that they be produced in Courts on February 23 in keeping with the request by the counsel.
CID sources said the three suspects were all members of a secret military intelligence platoon operating out of a camp at the Tripoli market in Maradana during the previous regime. A further three suspects are now being interrogated at the CID headquarters over this incident and other attacks. CID sources said more arrests were to follow.
Military spokesman Brigadier Roshan Seneviratne confirmed to the Sunday Times that the Army Major and two others had been arrested. He said all three were attached to Military Intelligence. He said the Army would render any assistance the Police would seek on the matter.