As the island celebrates Sinhala and Tamil New Year, Hejaz Hezbollah, a senior lawyer and minority civil rights activist, received an unusual call from the Ministry of Health. It said you were infected with COVID-19 and had been advised to stay home. Hejaz contacted government officials about the outbreak. The day before, he and others had written to the President of Sri Lanka stating that the government’s decision to ban the burying of Muslims’ bodies and instead compel them to cremate their bodies – their right to freedom of religion as protected by the Constitution of Sri Lanka and That the international obligations for.
Health officials never came to his home, but the CID knocked on his door. They handcuffed and arrested him without explaining the reason. When asked if the police had an arrest warrant, Hejaz’s relatives warned them not to ask any questions.
CID officers then spread rumors through his office, recorded his legal files and seized his phone and laptop. They told him to call the numbers on his phone and ask if he recognized them. Before taking Hejaz away, they obtained two files from his drawers – both relating to district court cases involving the property of Hejaz’s client Yusuf Mohamed Ibrahim.
Hajaz’s family believes he was arrested as a professional lawyer because he works for the human rights of the Muslim minority in Sri Lanka.
Hejaz is currently in custody for 90 days under a special order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Such a detention order can only be issued by the Minister of Defense and Sri Lanka does not have a Cabinet Minister of Defense. Accordingly, the order could not have been issued by anyone other than the President. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is one of the main tools used to commit human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Under it, any “suspect” can be detained – without any charges and without being brought before a judge. The detention order can be extended initially for 90 days and then up to 18 months.
The Sri Lankan government and the Rajapaksa family have a long history of using the Prevention of Terrorism Act to crack down on human rights activists, dissident politicians and journalists without racial discrimination. The Prevention of Terrorism Act has long been criticized as an inappropriate law used to suppress dissent and forcible disappearances. The Sri Lankan authorities have acknowledged the inherent abusive nature of the PTA but failed to repeal it as promised. The previous government proposed its own constitution to replace the law, but failed to amend the draft law to get adequate support before replacing it.
Hejazi was only able to see his lawyer and family a few times and could be arbitrarily detained until October 2021. He lost all his legal rights while in custody. The government has violated thousands of his individual rights, making it impossible to even appeal to the courts. Authorities have dragged Mohamed Ibrahim, the father of the bombers who attacked churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, 2019, into his unfortunate situation, using his legal professional connection. Authorities have publicly stated that the reason for his arrest was that he had talked to the bombers and their families.
Inshaf and Ilham, sons of Mohammed Ibrahim, were two of the seven bombers who killed more than 250 people when six bombs exploded across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019. Although it is said that these attacks were later carried out by the terrorist group ‘Islamic State’, the relationship with that group is still uncertain.
Hejaz was associated with Mohammed Ibrahim in two ways. He has worked as Ibrahim’s lawyer for the past five years, handling legal proceedings related to his business. Hejaz and Mohamed Ibrahim were also part of “Save the Pearls”, a charity that supports the education of underprivileged children and hopes to keep them out of crime and drug use. Mohammed Ibrahim served as treasurer of the organization as part of his broader altruistic activities, which he later handed over to his son Ilham, one of the bombers. The organization’s board asked Ilham to step down in 2016. Hejaz, a board member, has attended eight of its 52 meetings in just five years.
This relationship is used to justify the retention of Hejaz. The detention order states that Hejaz is being investigated for “aiding and abetting” the Easter Sunday bombing and engaging in activities that are considered “detrimental to religious unity among communities.” There is no credible evidence that there is any connection between the Hijaz and the April 21, 2019 bombings. According to his family, everything the authorities are doing is short-sighted.
Amnesty International is concerned that the lawsuit and evidence against Hajaz could be fabricated. A new allegation has surfaced that a school at the Save the Pearls charity was responsible for preaching “extremism” and providing “weapons training” to children. It has been nearly three months since he was arbitrarily arrested due to the lack of credibility of these allegations, but the authorities have not yet been able to substantiate their evidence. Children who were interviewed by the police are now beginning to take legal action on the basis that they were interviewed without a parent or guardian. Children have filed fundamental rights petitions in the Supreme Court through their parents and guardians, seeking an interim order from the police to produce arrest notes, video recordings and statements made to arrest children.
The Colombo Fort Magistrate has stated that the children have been shown pictures of Hijaz demanding that the CID officers identify him as a racist hate speaker. The identification parade was halted after protests by Hejaz’s lawyers, however, as the incident shows the state’s top officials trying to frame Hajaz for the Easter bombing without due process or sincerity.
In the anti-Muslim Sri Lankan social environment, the authorities have assassinated characters through the media and blamed them for the Easter bombing. Also, according to recent events, leading Muslim professionals have been unfairly targeted. Hejaz’s background was educated at a leading Anglican boys’ school in Sri Lanka. He is a Supreme Court Advocate and served as a Government Adviser to the Attorney General’s Department. He holds a Masters Degree from University College London and a Chewing Gum Scholarship. His legal studies include constitutional, contract, employment, human rights, and property law. Beyond his legal affairs,
Every day there are serious criticisms leveled against the authorities by the people over the Easter bombing. The State Intelligence Service had warned the then government authorities but failed to take any action. That was one of the reasons for the defeat of then President Maithripala Sirisena in the presidential election and one of the election slogans of the current President was to bring the Easter attackers to justice. The slogan was very successful and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa won by a margin of 52.25. Another general election will be held on August 5. Fatefully once again the Easter attack is on the political stage. The fate of Hejaz will not be determined by the fair functioning of the law, but apparently by the election results.
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