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Lanka AG office admits it failed to advise anti-terror authorities on banning NTJ, its website

Lanka AG office admits it failed to advise anti-terror authorities on banning NTJ, its website
Highlights

Sri Lanka's Attorney General Department has admitted that it failed to provide advises to the Terrorism Investigation Division regarding possibilities of banning the local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamat (NTJ), its website and social media accounts, according to a media report.

Colombo: Sri Lanka's Attorney General Department has admitted that it failed to provide advises to the Terrorism Investigation Division regarding possibilities of banning the local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamat (NTJ), its website and social media accounts, according to a media report.

The NTJ has been blamed for the Easter Sunday bombings, the country's worst terror attack that killed 258 people at three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo on April 21. The NTJ was led by firebrand cleric Zahran Bin Hashim, the mastermind of the attacks who blew himself up at the Shangri La hotel in Colombo. Senior Deputy Solicitor General Sumathi Dharmawardena and Senior State Counsel Abdul Malik Aziz while testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday bomb attacks admitted that the AG Department failed to provide information to the CID on banning the NTJ and its websites," the Daily Mirror reported.

It was revealed before the PSC that the department officials spent two years since 2017 to prepare a report related to the requests made by the TID and it had been completed on May 21, exactly one month after the deadly attacks. Senior Deputy Solicitor General Dharmawardena and Senior State Counsel Abdul Malik Aziz said the letters sent by the TID only asked about banning Zahran's websites and Facebook account, the daily said. There are no provisions in Sri Lanka to ban websites according to the current cyber security laws, they stated.

Responding to a question raised by Parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran whether they received any letter from the TID seeking advice to get on with investigations on NTJ, the two representatives from the AG's Department said they did receive a letter from the TID in 2017 and received another in 2018. "The TID request contained 63 pages. The TID had sent some printouts of a website. Since there are no cyber laws in Sri Lanka to ban websites, the AG Department did not reply" Dharamasena said. "They (the TID) sent us printouts of documents downloaded from a website. After studying them Senior State Counsel Malik Azis invited them for a meeting at the Department on March 12, 2019. After a lengthy consideration it was found that there were no evidence to take action against the website," he added,.

The Additional Solicitor General revealed that had the police reported violent incidents that took place in the Kattankudy area to the Kattankudy Magistrate court and then indicted them before the Batticaloa High court, the file may have been sent to the AG's Department. He said that police did not sought advice regarding banning of website and the Facebook account. Dharmawardena said the police did submit a report on the matter but it was not complete. It was also mentioned that the AG's Department failed to ask for an update on NTJ and its activities.

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