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Sri Lanka court frees Indian cleared in assassination plot

February 27, 2019

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A magistrate on Wednesday acquitted an Indian man who was detained for five months over an alleged plot to kill Sri Lanka’s president after police cleared the man of wrongdoing.

Police investigators informed the Colombo Magistrate court Wednesday that there was no evidence to justify charges against Mersalin Thomas.

Acting Magistrate Jayantha Dias Nanayakkara ordered Thomas’s release over the alleged plot, but remanded him for violating Sri Lanka’s immigration law for overstaying without a valid visa.

Thomas was arrested in September 2018 at the house of Namal Kumara, a police informant and self-described Sri Lankan anti-corruption activist.

Kumara told authorities about the alleged plot to kill Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena. It was not clear what Thomas was doing in Sri Lanka at the time his arrest.

Kumara also revealed that he had a taped conversation with Nalaka de Silva, head of the terrorism investigation department, describing a plan for a hired killer to assassinate Sirisena. Silva was also arrested and has been detained.

Kumara did not make any comments on Wednesday and it was not possible to reach him for a comment.

The alleged plot threatened to damage relations between Sri Lanka and neighboring India, after an Indian newspaper reported that Sirisena had accused India’s intelligence services of involvement.

Thomas professed his innocence from the start. Sirisena later denied the newspaper’s account.

The alleged plot also led to a political upheaval in Sri Lanka, with Sirisena firing the country’s prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the entire cabinet in October. He alleged that a Cabinet minister was also involved in the plot and blamed Wickremesinghe’s government of moving slowly to investigate the alleged plot.

Sirisena appointed former strongman president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is considered pro-China, as new prime minister. Thereafter, Sirisena dissolved parliament and called for fresh elections.

After a Supreme Court ruling and because of a lack of majority in parliament for Rajapaksa, Sirisena had to re-appoint Wickremesinghe as prime minister in December.

When the new cabinet was appointed, Sirisena retained the ministry in charge of police under him. Police are still conducting investigations on the alleged plot, but so far no one has been arrested.

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