Lankan charged despite zero evidence
By Leon Berenger
A young Sri Lankan man is in jail in the Maldives, in what his family has described, on trumped-up charges that he was involved in a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen.It all started on 23 October 2015 when 29-year-old Lahiru Madushanka was arrested at the Male International Airport shortly before he was to board a scheduled SriLankan Airline flight for Colombo.
The arresting officers at the time informed him that he was being charged with unruly behaviour in a public place and then was led away.
Madushanka had arrived into the archipelago the previous day to finalize a business deal with a local that involved the export of dried salted fish.
But things did not go ahead as planned. On arrival in Male the local failed to show up as promised and the Sri Lankan was left stranded. Therefore he booked into a cheap motel with the little pocket money he had and decided to leave for Colombo the next day.
But this was not to be. From the airport Madushanka was taken to a local Police Station and lengthy questioning began. Before long the Lankan realized that the Police were onto something more serious and their initial claim for his arrest at the airport was a fake.
And so Madushanka's ordeal had begun and he was gradually told that he is being investigated for his alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate the Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen.
The Police indicated that he was an Army deserter and a trained sniper and was hired as the 'hit' man in the assassination plot.
Follow up investigations in Colombo both by the Police and the defence authorities gave Madushanka a clean bill and he was never listed in the armed forces in any category nor did he have any criminal record.
Madushanka's Maldivian connection was made through a cabbie operator known as Yaseep Danushka who operated from the suburbs.
Madushanka and Danushka were known to each other and they even shared home visits visiting each other on family occasions.
Subsequently the Maldivian was introduced to Madushanka and they discussed ways of importing dry salted fish from the Maldives to Colombo.
On 22 October 2015 Madushanka left Colombo for the Maldives to finalize the dried fish deal and the rest is now known.
"It is now clear that the Maldivian who invited my son to the Maldives was more than just a dried fish trader. There was something more sinister and my son blindly walked into the trap," says Madushanka's father M . D. Ananda.
"We have taken the case up with every known authority. They keep telling us that my son would be released soon. They say there is protocol and paper work to be done but the waiting game continues," he said.
In desperation Madushanka's family has hired a Maldivian lawyer for a fee of US$ 3, 500 to look after his interests. The family had earlier hired a Sri Lankan lawyer, but he did not have the mandate to represent Madushanka under the legal framework of that country.
The Foreign Ministry is working within the frame of diplomatic protocol since the Maldives is a friendly neighbour.
"The Sri Lankan envoy in Male has spoken to Madushanka. We are in touch with the Maldivian Attorney General, the Chief Prosecutor, the Police and all stakeholders. We hope that matters will be sorted out at the very earliest," C.A.H.M. Wijeyrathne of the legal division at the Foreign Ministry said.
He added that Madushanka is an innocent pawn in a deep Maldivian racket that also revolves around an alleged plot to assassinate the Executive President.
"We are also looking at reports that certain Maldivian individuals had made secret visits to the country and offered a large sum of money to the cab operator in return for a written statement implicating Madushanka with the assassination plot.
We do not know if they were Maldivian Police operatives, but the cabbie was wise to turn down the offer or else he would be putting himself on the block as well and although the charges against Madushanka are of a very serious nature the Maldivian investigators have zero evidence to back their claim.
Four Maldivians who have been arrested on the same charges had also refused to implicate Madushanka saying the Lankan was not known to them.
Having said all that we have gone to the highest levels in a bid to get him out of jail and hopefully he will be released at the very earliest," Wijeyrathna said.
One and a half years on the battle to seek his release rages on and the family has no intention of giving up until he returns home.
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