Sri Lanka CID seizes journalist’s laptop over Swiss kidnap claim

A Sri Lankan journalist attached to the The New York Times has said police recently raided her home and seized her laptop, in connection with the alleged abduction of a Swiss Embassy staffer in Colombo last November.

On Monday, Dharisha Bastians, a correspondent for The New York Times and a former editor of the State-run Sunday Observer, tweeted a statement, saying the CID raided her home on June 9.

“Five CID officials arrived at my residence in Colombo with a warrant to search the house. The officers searched the entire house, including bedrooms, my desk and my workspace… My computer was found, seized and sealed,” she said, adding that earlier, the CID obtained her telephone call records without a court order. “As a journalist, I was horrified at the public exposure of my telephone records, which could seriously endanger and compromise my sources and contacts, then, now and in the future,” she said.

In November 2019, a Swiss Embassy staffer said she was abducted, sexually harassed and threatened by unidentified men. The allegation, backed by the Swiss Embassy, sparked a diplomatic row between Bern and Colombo, with both making contradictory claims over the said incident that Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission termed “deeply concerning”.

Police earlier accused Ms. Bastians of having communicated with the Embassy staffer, who was arrested and subsequently granted bail, following the government’s allegations that she had “fabricated” the abduction claim.

The journalist left the country following the November 2019 elections, in which President Gotabaya secured a resounding mandate.

In December last year, President Rajapaksa told media that the Embassy staffer must have been “compelled by some interested parties” to bring “disrepute” to him and his government.

On Tuesday, the Colombo Chief Magistrate ordered government analysts to examine whether any alterations had been made to Ms. Bastians’s seized laptop, after her lawyers made an application to court.

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