SLAF officers jailed for threatening journalist

[TamilNet, Thursday, 07 February 2002, 21:02 GMT]
The Colombo High Court Thursday found guilty two Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) officers who had threatened to kill Mr.Iqbal Athas, Consultant Editor of the Sunday Times in 1998, and sentenced them to nine years rigorous imprisonment. Delivering his order the High Court Judge Mr.Sarath Ambepitiya said, "Media personnel have the freedom to criticise any member of any rank of the society. The accused had committed the offence to prevent the complainant from exposing corruption and malpractice of the Sri Lanka Air Force".

The officers were also ordered to pay a fine of twenty thousand rupees each.

In the case two Air Force Officers, Squadron Leader H.M.Rukman Herath and Squadron Leader D.S.P.Kannangara, had been indicted by the Attorney General for committing criminal trespass, intimidation and unlawful entry with weapons into Mr.Athas home on February 12,1998.

The first accused Rukman Herath was the bodyguard of a former Air Force Commander Air Vice Marshall Oliver Ranasinghe, at the time of committing the offence. The second accused was the officer in charge of the Special Air Borne Force of the SLAF.

According to the prosecution, both the accused had threatened, harassed and intimidated the complainant for exposing the corruption and malpractice in the Sunday Times weekly news paper.

The defense argued that the prosecution had failed to establish the identity of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Mr.Athas' profession was such that it attracted lots of opposition from different quarters. Thus there was a possibility that intruders were not a part of the Air Force, the defense pleaded.


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