Sri Lankan court frees church worker in grenade incident

Catholic Church leaders in Sri Lanka welcomed the release of a parish sexton on February 9, a month after he was arrested on suspicion of planting a hand grenade inside his church.

Selvadore Francis Munindran and three others, including a nine-year-old child, were arrested on January 11 after a grenade was found inside All Saints Church near Colombo.

The grenade recovery and arrests took place three days before the local church’s commemoration of the 1,000and day of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

Colombo Additional Magistrate Rajindra Jayasuriya ordered Munindran’s release after the government’s legal representative told the court that no criminal charges were brought against the suspect due to insufficient evidence.

The three suspects in the case were released a week earlier.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith had protested against the arrests of “innocent people” in this case and had even boycotted the official celebration of Independence Day. He also met Munindran while in detention on February 4.

Church officials say police arrested those who reported the crime rather than identify the real culprits.

Munindran was instrumental in preventing an explosion in the church, said Fr. Jude Chrisantha, archdiocesan director of mass communication.

“He is a gentleman and Cardinal Ranjith visited him to express the gratitude of the Church,” he said.

Neville Abeyratne, the president’s attorney and attorney, said that although it was initially reported that the hand grenade was planted by church workers, their innocence has now been confirmed.

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“There is no need for the Catholic Church or the Cardinal to keep a bomb in the church,” he said.

Abeyratne called for new investigations to uncover the truth behind the incident and the arrests of the real culprits.

He said the incident reveals “a dangerous situation which raises serious suspicions” as the grenade was found near the residence of Cardinal Ranjith.

The Catholic Church, led by Cardinal Ranjith, has been highly critical of the Sri Lankan government’s handling of the investigations into the Easter bombings and the plot behind them.

Nuwan Fernando, a Catholic businessman from Colombo, pointed out that the grenade incident came days after Cardinal Ranjith hinted at the possibility of another politically motivated attack.

“We think the politicians wanted to create a misleading story but God prevented it,” said Fernando, who was present at a rally marking the 1,000th day of the Easter Sunday bombings.

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