2019 Sri Lankan Swiss embassy controversy
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On 25 November 2019, a Sri Lankan Swiss embassy staff member who works in Colombo was reportedly abducted by unidentified men and was detained in their custody for an investigation. She was released on the same day after two hours of inquiry. The Swiss government immediately requested the Sri Lankan authorities to conduct inquiry regarding the probe.
Sri Lankan officials launched investigations regarding the alleged kidnapping and mentioned that the attack was possibly in relation to a former top police officer Nishantha de Silva who pledged asylum from Switzerland. The issue has become a significant diplomatic standoff between the two countries with Sri Lanka accusing Switzerland of throwing mud. Sri Lanka Foreign minister further stated that the sequence of events and timeline of the alleged incident, as formally presented by the Swiss Mission on behalf of the alleged victim to the CID, did not in any way correspond with the actual movements of the alleged victim on that date, as borne out by witness interviews and technical evidence, including Uber records, CCTV footage, telephone records and the GPS data. Switzerland government further stated that it will take the issue seriously and called the attack on the employee as unacceptable which would affect the diplomatic ties between the nations. The case is considered to be a mysterious circumstance.
The issue became a prime focus after Nishantha de Silva, a top police officer who was known for inquiring high profile cases since 2015 had reportedly fled to Switzerland with his family in order to seek asylum following the conclusion of the 2019 Sri Lankan presidential election where Gotabaya Rajapaksa emerged victorious. Silva is believed to have received death threats and left the country without proper permission.
On 25 November 2019, the local embassy employee was dragged into a car by a gang of unknown men to obtain information related to the Swiss embassy and information about Silva. The kidnapped woman was forced to disclose the mobile phone data of Sri Lankan citizens who applied for asylum in Switzerland. On the same day she returned to the embassy with minor injuries from her abduction. Newly appointed Major General Kamal Gunaratne met with the ambassador for Switzerland in Sri Lanka and explained the results of the investigation. The Government of Sri Lanka rejected the request from Swiss authorities to send one of its staff members to Switzerland for medical treatment.
In December 2019, the Sri Lankan magistrate court ordered the embassy staff worker to remain in Sri Lanka for inquiries and blocked the staff member from leaving the country until 9 December 2019 without making a police statement. However, the Swiss government stated that the health of the woman deteriorated and further stated that the inquiry would be unfair. On 9 December 2019, the magistrate court further extended the travel ban on the staff member until 12 December 2019 and it was reported that the staff issued a statement before the Criminal Investigation Department regarding the alleged abduction of her.
On 16 December 2019, Sri Lankan officials arrested the staff member for claiming false abduction allegations according to the reports. The officials officially revealed the name of the perpetrator as Gania Banister Francis and she was subjected to medical tests and psychiatric analysis based upon her claims. CID revealed there is no such evidence to prove Francis' claim that she was kidnapped and molested.
On December 19, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it had sent an experienced diplomat to Sri Lanka to try to resolve the incident. On the same day, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the foreign press had been reporting on the alleged abduction before the facts were established, calling himself the victim of a "planned thing to discredit me and the government."
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