Despite issuance of open warrants in 2018 for the arrest of Zahran Hashim, leader of the National Tawheed Jama’at (NTJ) and mastermind behind the bombings on 21 April, 2019, the Terrorism Investigations Division (TID) had not informed Police stations islandwide in that connection.
This was revealed when a Chief Inspector of Police (CI) of the TID testified yesterday before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe the attacks on Easter Sunday, 2019.
He said that in November 2018, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara who was sent on compulsory leave following the attacks on Easter Sunday, had sent an intelligence report to the TID regarding Zahran and NTJ organisation.
Jayasundara had received that report from the State Intelligence Service (SIS), he added.
“It said in the report that Zahran was making extremist statements on social media platforms such as Facebook. The SIS had asked Jayasundara to investigate and take necessary action against him and Jayasundera had forwarded the report to the TID, requesting that a report be submitted soon,” he also said.
He added that several videos were found in which were recorded speeches by Zahran criticising Muslim political parties, Parliament and Judiciary of Sri Lanka. According to him, it had also been observed that there is a possibility of Muslim youth joining NTJ and thereby creating various conflicts due to extremist statements propagated by Zahran through social media platforms of the NTJ organisation.
Testifying further, the CI went on to say that “In March 2018 we requested from Facebook to cancel the Facebook accounts belonging to Zahran and the NTJ Organisation,” However, he stated that as a result of repeated requests, the Facebook accounts of Zahran and NTJ were cancelled on 12 April, 2019.
He also stated that relevant files were forwarded to the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Department on 7 June, 2018 for the purpose of obtaining appropriate legal advice on action to be taken against Zahran. Having asked whether there was a response from the AG’s Department in that regard, he said that there had been no response.
He added that several reports have been forwarded to Jayasundara based on findings of the investigations that they carried out. Responding to a question raised by members of the Commission whether Jayasundera had advised him on the steps to be taken in this regard, he said that he had not received such advice. He only asked for more reports and we were not informed of any steps to be taken, he said.
Responding to a question raised by the Senior State Counsel (SSC) as to what actions were taken by the TID against Zahran, the witness said that they had reported to the court and obtained an open warrant for his arrest. However, when the Commission inquired whether action had been taken to notify all Police stations about the warrant, he said that it was not possible to inform the Police about the incident adding that it was their mistake for not being able to do so.
When reports that were received by the TID from Jayasundara were submitted to the Commission, the Chairman of the Commission, Appeal Court Judge Janak De Silva noted that there was a difference between Jayasundara’s signature and handwritings of the notes sent to TID by Jayasundara.