Sri Lankan court blocks Swiss Embassy worker from leaving
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A Sri Lankan court on Tuesday blocked a Swiss Embassy employee from leaving the country until she gives a statement to police about allegations that she was abducted and threatened in order to disclose embassy information.
Colombo’s chief magistrate issued an order at the request of police preventing the woman from leaving until Dec. 9 and requiring that she give a statement before that date.
The Swiss foreign ministry called the Nov. 25 incident a “very serious and unacceptable attack.” The Sri Lankan government said evidence collected by its investigators did not support the sequence of events given by the embassy, and said the employee needs to be interviewed by police.
Swiss State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl summoned Sri Lankan Ambassador Karunasena Hettiarachchi and asked him to explain the evidence, the Swiss foreign ministry said Monday.
Baeriswyl told the ambassador that the ministry would support all measures to investigate and resolve the matter by due process of law, but that the woman was too ill to be interviewed now.
“She confirmed that the employee concerned still cannot be questioned on health grounds, stressing that the individual’s health must take priority,” the ministry said in a statement.
“She also indicated that while Switzerland had no interest in delaying investigations by the Sri Lankan authorities, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs takes its responsibilities to its staff very seriously.”
A Sri Lankan police investigator, Nishantha Silva, fled to Switzerland following the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president on Nov. 16.
Silva had been investigating alleged abductions, torture, killings and enforced disappearances of journalists and activists when Rajapaksa was the defense chief under his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency.
As defense chief, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was accused of overseeing what were known as “white van” abduction squads that whisked away critics. Some of them were returned after being tortured, while others were never seen again.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has denied the allegations.