The Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne today (21) ordered the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to institute legal action against Former Sunday Observer Editor and journalist Dharisha Bastians if it transpires that she had deliberately obstructed the investigations into the alleged false abduction claim by former Swiss embassy employee Garnier Banister Francis.
ASP Merril Ranjan Lamahewa appearing on behalf of the CID in court said Bastians had caused obstructions to the investigations from its inception and had inconvenienced the investigators of the case. Bastians, a vociferous critic of the Rajapaksa regime following the assassination of Lasantha Wickramatunge, Editor of the Sunday Leader in 2009 is believed to have left the country following the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Last year Francis had claimed that on November 25 she was abducted by an unidentified group of men after a former CID investigator IP Nishantha Silva fled the country and was believed to have been granted asylum in Switzerland. Silva had been leading investigations into several high profile cases, some against key Rajapaksa supporters.
Francis claimed she had been abducted, sexually assaulted and forced to divulge information relating to those who had recently sought political asylum from and the names of Sri Lankans who aided them, particularly that of IP Nishantha Silva.
The Swiss Embassy at the time released a statement saying the unidentified men detained the woman against her will and tried to force her to "disclose embassy-related information". They said at the time this was "a very serious and unacceptable attack on one of its diplomatic representations and its employees".
But the Sri Lankan authorities have maintained that she had fabricated the story. Francis was subsequently questioned over several days by police and subjected to medical tests. Following these on December 16 when the case was taken up in courts the attorney general's department said the CID had found no evidence to support Francis’s allegation that she had been abducted, subjected to coercion or sexual harassment.
Meeting the Swiss Ambassador at the time, President Rajapaksa said the story was fabricated and evidence such as CCTV footage, Uber records have proven Francis had made up the story.
She was as a result arrested on December 16 by the Police. CID also claimed that she had contacted Inspector Nishantha Silva, who had fled to Switzerland, the former chairman of the Lake House Krishantha Cooray, and former Observer editor Darisha Bastian over the phone during the time period the alleged abduction took place.
However in a statement in December 2019, the Swiss foreign ministry (FDFA) criticized the Sri Lankan authorities. It claimed there was a "lack of due process in the case".
The case has now been postponed to September 8 by Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne.