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Poet and Teacher Ahnaf Jazeem’s PTA case called in Courts Today (22 June)

The case against Sri Lankan Muslim Poet Ahnaf Jazeem in Colombo Chief Magistrate Court was called today (22). Submissions and applications were made by Counsel for Ahnaf upon a motion filed for the same. Officers of the Counter Terrorism and Investigation Division (TID) were unavailable in Courts though the case was due for today.

Ahnaf was not brought to Court from Prison, like all other remandees, due to helath restrictions imposed in view of the pandemic, according to prison officers.

Ahnaf Jazeem

Counsel submitted and recorded that TID willfully and maliciously abstained from informing the poet’s parents or his lawyers before he was stealthily produced  before Court, in order to prevent his lawyers from making crucial submissions and applications on behalf of the poet. Counsel submitted that one such application was for an order to call a report by a psychologist in respect of the poet’s mental health and the other was for a report of a physician regarding his physical health.The Defence was prevented from making these applications, which were crucial, given that the Poet was mentally harassed in the custody of TID, by prolonging his detention  for one year in order force him to make a self incriminating admission.  This has caused serious prejudice to the poet who has filed a fundamental rights case about this ill-treatment by the Police.

Counsel also submitted that, while the TID has purportedly produced the poet under Section 7(2) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), in fact they should have produced him under Section 7(1) thereof, which provides for the discretion of the Attorney General to cosent to release the suspect pending trial. It was submitted that TID has done this wrongfully, willfully¬† and maliciously to prevent the suspect Poet getting some relief, if the AG decides so, and thereby misrepresented law and misdirected the Court. When a detainee, who was arrested under Section 6(1) of PTA and detained for a long time under Detention Orders issued under Section 9 of PTA, is produced before a Court, the discretion is given for the Attorney General to decide whether to release him pending trial, because a detainee is produced to court following a long detention period simply because the investigation is almost concluded, and therefore further prohibition of the liberty of the person is not required. On the other hand Section 7(2) is used to remand a person who is produced or appears before Court, where the person is reasonably suspected to be connected with or concerned in the commission of any offence under the PTA in a manner other than that referred to in Section 7 (1). Under Section 7(2), Magistrate’s remand order is mandatory, because, when the person is produced or appears before Court, the investigations are only just started or not yet concluded. When produced under 7(1), that is when investigations are supposed to be over during the period of detention orders, so that the Magistrate could decide to remand the person or release him, pending trial, based on the AG’s decision as to whether to release the detainee from custody or not. Section 7(1) clearly provides that it applies only to produce detainees, who have been arrested under Section 6(1), within a period of 72 hours or at the lapse of detention orders.

Application was also made to order the TID or the Prisons Department to keep the poems the poet has written while in detention and his Quran in safe custody, so that the same could be released to the poet when he is finally released from prison. 

Counsel also made an application to order the TID to submit to Court a summary of whatever evidence they have against poet Ahnaf under Section 120(3)of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The orders in regard to these applications were reserved and notice was issued to TID to appear on the 29 June 2021 and make their submissions. A short date was given on the application by the Defence.

The Prison Department was directed to facilitate the poet’s lawyers to visit their client. Court also directed to make available to the poet all the entitlements which the other remandees have, including facilitating any visit by his parents.  

Submissions were made by Mr. Sanjaya Wilson Jayasekera, Attorney-at-Law. Mr. A.A.M.Illiyas, President’s Counsel appeared with Mr. Jayasekera and Miss. Swasthika Arulingam, Attorney- at-Law for the poet.

Poet Ahnaf was detained over one year by TID on allegations of promoting Muslim extremism by publishing a Tamil poetry book titled ‘Navarasam’ and teaching students extremism. The poet has denied all allegations.

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