Azath Salley’s Arrest
By Nirmala Kannangara and Raisa Wickrematunge
The health condition of Azath Salley who was arrested on Thursday (2) morning at his Kolonnawa residence by the CID is reportedly bad. According to reports his health condition was deteriorating despite the Judicial Medical Officer’s (JMO) advice to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to produce Azath Salley before a magistrate.
As a result Salley’s condition turned to worse and was admitted to ward 55, National Hospital Colombo on Friday evening.
While some sources the National Hospital on condition of anonymity said that Sally was fallen sick at the time of admission since he was not taking food and medicine, Acting Director National Hospital Dr. Cyril de Silva said that Salley was in stable condition at the time of his admission.
“He is in a medical ward and is under observation. Other than the diabetic and hypertension condition, there is nothing wrong with Salley,” added Dr. De Silva.
Police Spokesman SP Buddhika Siriwardena said that Azath Salley was arrested following several complaints received by the CID against the speeches he has made inciting racism.
“He was taken into custody under Section 120 of the Penal Code and provisions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He has violated clause 21 of the PTA,” said SP Siriwardena.
Salley, is the leader of the newly formed Muslim Tamil National, and was critical of the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS) which has been accused of attacking Muslim and Christian religious places over the past few months. As a result Salley had received death threats and went on hiding in fear for his safety.
He was arrested on Thursday morning around 6.30 a.m. according to his brother Shabeen Salley who was at his (Azath) gate when he was taken away by the CID.
“Around 6 am, Azath called and told me that his house in Kolonnawa and all the by lanes around have been cordoned off and wanted me to see what was going on. When I reached his house immediately after the call I was stopped by some STF personnel and asked where I was going. Although I was allowed to go near the house I was not allowed to go beyond the gate as the gate was closed. The gate remote control was with the CID officers. By 6.30 a.m. the gate was opened and my brother was taken away in a van escorted by five CID officers,” said Shabeen.
According to Shabeen, more than 30 CID personnel have entered Salley’s residence and he was not allowed to use his phone to speak to his lawyer.
However, Head of the Media Center for National Security (MCSN) Lakshman Hulugalle said they had received complaints that Salley had misappropriated funds, and added that the former deputy Mayor had been arrested under Section 120 of the Penal Code (creating religious disharmony amongst a group of people) as well as under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Attorney-at-Law Shiraz Noordeen who is appearing for Salley said the accusation of misappropriating funds is false and added that Salley had been arrested following an interview given to a Tamil Nadu magazine in which he had said that extremist groups were spreading a hate campaign against Muslims whilst the Government was turning a blind eye. According to Noordeen, allegations have been levelled against Salley for telling the interviewer that if this were to continue, Muslims would have no choice but to take up arms.
“Salley’s statement had been incorrectly reported, but had only stated that the Government should intervene before Muslims were pushed into a difficult position. He had been arrested under Section 120 of the Penal Code as well as under Section 2 H of the Prevention of Terrorism Act which is non bailable,” added Noordeen,
According to Noordeen, Salley has been put into a small cell with 15 terrorist suspects and have been deprived of the cloths the family has taken.
“When I visited Salley on the fifth floor of the CID on Friday morning I saw how he was staying in a packed cell with 15 other terrorist suspects. Although he was wearing a good shirt his family has brought the day before, Salley told me that he was allowed to wear it to meet me but not on the previous day. He was not given the clothes the night before although he has requested,” said Noordeen.
Meanwhile, Salley’s daughter Amina who was with her father at the time of his arrest said the police officers had no search warrant and her father was arrested under terrorism laws.
“My father is not a terrorist,” Amina said adding that her major concern was his health.
Meanwhile, Riyaz Salley, another brother of Azath speaking against the arrest said, “My brother always talks about unity and celebrating diversity. He was the first to condemn the attacks on monks in Tamil Nadu even before the Sinhalese politicians. We are always against terrorism and extremism.”
He further said that the family had still not completed 20 days of mourning after their mother’s death.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) head Rauff Hakeem reacting to the arrest said he thought the Government could have acted with more restraint, adding that this was an extreme step.
“This does not mean that I endorse Salley’s views, which were often abusive and reactive. However he too had a right to freedom of expression. When other groups were using inflammatory language but were getting away sot free it is sad that the law has not applied to all alike. The law should apply to everyone alike,” said Hakeem said.
UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya commenting strictly in his personal capacity said that he felt arresting people under the Prevention of Terrorism Act set a dangerous precedent, and added that he was shocked to hear that Salley was arrested.
“Salley was always talking about national unity. This move has set a dangerous trend for the future,” added Jayasuriya.
All attempts to contact government spokesmen Keheliya Rambukwella and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena for a comment failed.