CNA Staff, Oct 6, 2020 / 14:13 pm America/Denver (CNA).
A year and a half after church and hotel bombings killed 259 people and injured another 500 in Sri Lanka, five of seven suspects arrested in connection with the attacks have been released by the country’s government.
The government has said the suspects were released due to a lack of evidence. However, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, as well as friends and family of the victims, have said they fear the release means corruption, or a lack of a thorough investigation, on the part of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department.
"It is sad and unfortunate that those who are alleged to have been involved in the attacks are released," Ranjith said in an Oct. 3 press conference, according to UCA News.
"Those who are affected physically and mentally wait for justice to be meted out, but it is unfortunate that the investigation is not going the way it should," the cardinal added.
On April 21 of last year, suicide bombers detonated during Easter services at two Catholic churches and one evangelical Christian church, as well as at four hotels and a housing complex that same morning, with a total of nine suicide bombers. Later that week, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks. Ranjith said security officials had confirmed to him a few months ago that there was sufficient evidence against many of the suspects who had been arrested.
Of the suspects released, Ranjith and other Sri Lankans said they were most dubious of the release of Riyaj Bathiudeen, brother of Rishad Bathiudeen, who is the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress party in Sri Lanka. According to UCA, a police spokesman told journalists on Sept. 15 that Riyaj Bathiudeen had met with one of the suicide bombers before one of the attacks on a hotel, and he is accused of other acts of collaboration with the bombers. He was released after 168 days of detainment. On Oct. 4, relatives of the victims of the Easter bombings protested in front of St. Sebastian's Church, Katuwapitiya, a little more than 20 miles north of Colombo, demanding a fair and thorough investigation and for justice to be done.