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FCO provides documentation to assist court over Sri Lanka Defence Attaché case

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is assisting Westminster Magistrate's Court in the case of the Sri Lanka's Defence Attaché, Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, who was filmed last year motioning a death threat to British Tamils in London. 

Speaking to Tamil Guardian today, the FCO spokesperson confirmed it was providing documentation to assist with the case. 

"The FCO, which is not a party to these legal proceedings, has been contacted by Westminster Magistrate’s Court seeking clarification of the Brigadier’s diplomatic status in the UK at the time of the incident. The FCO is providing documentation to assist the court." 

"We were deeply concerned by the incident involving the Sri Lankan Defence Attaché last year and made immediate representations to the Sri Lankan Government. The Defence Attaché was recalled by his Government soon after," the FCO spokesperson added. 

“The UK is committed to upholding the rule of law including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”

Earlier this week the Court issued an arrest warrant for Brigadier Fernando, having found him guilty of committing public order offences for his death threat. 

Fernando was found guilty of violating sections 5 and 4A of the Public Order Act, with the court stating that his actions were threatening, caused harassment, and that he intended them to be so.

A private prosecution was brought against the Sri Lankan soldier who was filmed motioning a death threat to Tamils in London last year, running his finger across his neck whilst dressed in full military uniform. He was attending a celebration at the Sri Lankan High Commission in the UK to mark ‘Independence Day’ at the time, whilst British Tamils held a demonstration outside with placards and Tamil Eelam flags. Sri Lankan officials were also seen photographing the protestors in an apparent act of intimidation.

The brigadier, who was stationed in Britain as Sri Lankan military attaché at the time, was tried in absence, with the Public Interest Law Centre stating that Fernando was “served with the bundle, documents, evidence, months before the prelim hearing”.

“Then months before served with the hearing date.... and apparently [he] chose not to attend,” it added on Twitter.

Chief Magistrate Sonia Henley said she was “satisfied every effort had been made” to serve the charges on him, during Monday’s hearing.

Lawyers from the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC), who acted on behalf of the complainant, told reporters outside the court that they would now look to ensure that Fernando is brought to the UK to face justice.

Read more here

The Sri Lankan military however said it was not aware of the issuing of the arrest warrant, stating that it was “not concerned” over the matter.

"If a warrant has been issued then the relevant authorities must follow the due procedure in order to inform us formally" Media Spokesperson of Sri Lanka Army Brigadier Sumith Atapattu told Times Online.

Read more here

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