After over five months in prison, Sri Lankan student activist Wasantha Mudalige is free. A day after he was cleared of all terrorism charges under the Prevention to Terrorism Act (PTA) by a magistrate’s court in national capital Colombo, Mudalige was also granted bail in the three remaining cases against him on Wednesday, February 1.
Issuing the verdict on January 31, the Colombo Chief Magistrate discharged Mudalige from all charges filed under the PTA, stating that it had been proven that the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) had misused the PTA to file charges against him.
The Colombo Chief Magistrate further said that Mudalige had not committed any of the offenses specified in the PTA, as reported by Newswire.lk .
Convener of Inter-University Students' Federation (IUSF) Wasantha Mudalige walked out a free man today after being released on bail by the Colombo Fort Magistrate. #DailyMirror #SriLanka #SLnews
Part 01 pic.twitter.com/MnTe31YXYK
— DailyMirror (@Dailymirror_SL) February 1, 2023
Releasing Mudalige of all charges under the PTA, the court ruled that “draconian terror charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) can’t be maintained against [him].”
Earlier this year, seven international rights organizations signed a statement urging President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government in Sri Lanka to release the 29-year-old student leader.
Tuesday’s ruling comes as a big win for the students and civil society organizations that have been fighting for his release since his incarceration last year.
Handing over 12,000+ affidavits signed by people around the country in support of Wasantha Mudalige & repealing PTA. 2 busses full of police showed up at the SC when we went to hand them over shows how much @RW_UNP afraid people's power.#lka #SriLanka #GoHomeRanil #RepealPTA pic.twitter.com/KbL16KErGM
— Prasad Welikumbura (@Welikumbura) January 30, 2023
Last year, on August 18, Mudalige, the convenor of the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF), was arrested on his way back from one of the anti-government protests that had engulfed the island nation amid a severe economic crisis. The protests had led to the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa following which Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed president.
Since coming to power, Wickremesinghe’s rule has been marred by repression of dissent across the country, with state and security forces resorting to frequent use of the draconian anti-terrorism PTA law.
The PTA was first adopted as a “temporary” measure in 1979 and contains numerous provisions in contravention of international legal standards. These have enabled arbitrary detentions and torture, sometimes for a period of decades. It has also repeatedly been used to target government opponents and members of minority communities like the Tamils and Muslims.
What does Wasantha Mudalige’s release order say about our criminal justice system? That it is working that he was released or it’s broken that he had to be behind bars on fake terror charges? #WasanthaMudalige #RepealPTA #SriLanka
— Hejaaz Hizbullah (@hejaazh) January 31, 2023