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Hejaaz Hizbullah refused bail

Puttalam High Court has refused to grant bail to Muslim human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah despite earlier claims from the Sri Lankan Attorney General that the Court of Appeal would consent to the granting of bail.

The announcement comes as a disappointment to human rights activists who have tirelessly campaigned for his release. Hizbullah was initially detained by the Criminal Investigation Department on 14 April 2020 under Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act under dubious allegations that he aided the Easter Sunday attack.

Hoping for his release, Amnesty International tweeted:

Hizbullah has since thanked all those who have fought for his release and urged them to continue the fight. He remains one of many high-profile cases of those detained under Sri Lanka’s draconian PTA. He has been regularly denied unrestricted access to his lawyers and family throughout his detention.

Amnesty International has described Hizbullah as a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped.

The court’s decision to refuse bail similar follows a briefing by Sri Lanka’s foreign minister in which he claimed that Sri Lanka had made progress on human rights and noted Hizbullah’s being granted bail as evidence.

The minister further alleged that the government was committed to reforming the PTA however this claim has come under criticism with the government expanding the provisions in March under the veil of “deradicalization”.

Last June, EU parliament passed a resolution condemning the regression of human rights in Sri Lanka and noting the government’s failure to repeal the PTA as it had previously committed to. The resolution called on the European Council to investigate and prosecute war crime abuses; to suspend funding for the training of Sri Lanka’s security forces; and to suspend the favourable trading preferences granted by the GSP+ agreement.

The denial of bail also comes in advance of the upcoming 49th Session of the Human Rights Council, which will commence in the last week of February.

Read more here.

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