22 March, 2010 - Published 14:33 GMT

Minister misled police; petition to court

A journalist detained on charges of conspiring against the government has accused a minister of providing false information to the police.

In a Fundamental Rights (FR) petition to the Supreme Court, journalist Ruwan Weerakoon has informed the courts that information given to the police Criminal investigation Department (CID) by Minister Johnston Fernando are false.

Minister Fernando has told the police, says Mr. Weerakoon, that he personally introduced former military commander Gen Sarath Fonseka to the minister, then an opposition parliamentarian.

Gen Fonseka is currently facing two military courts on corruption and engaging in politics while in uniform.

Minister Johnston Fernando’s statement to the CID is among the key evidence against Gen Fonseka.

Military Court Martial

Journalist Weerakoon says he provided an affidavit denying the statement by Minister Fernando to police as soon as he became aware of it.

The Bottomline defence correspondent was arrested by the police on 18 March but the police initially denied the arrest.

The police have earlier questioned five journalists, including Mr. Weerakoon, regarded by the government as close to Sarath Fonseka.

In his petition the journalist has accused the police of trying to force him to make a statement confirming Minister Fernando's statement by arresting him despite submitting an affidavit.

Mr. Weerakoon requests the court to rule that his fundamental rights were violated by the arbitrary arrest and detention and order the police to release him.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Inspector General of Police and officials from the CID and Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) are cited as respondents.

Media watchdogs in Sri Lanka and international media watchdogs including Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have called on the authorities to immediately release the journalist.