Sri Lanka president pardons firebrand Buddhist monk who led anti-Muslim campaign
Colombo, May 23 (PTI): Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has pardoned a firebrand Buddhist monk, Galagodatte Gnanasara, who is accused of inciting violence against minority Muslims and convicted of contempt of court.
President Sirisena granted pardon to Gnanasara days after releasing 762 other convicts to mark Vesak, also known as ‘Buddha Jayanti’.
“He will be released later on Thursday, the President had signed all the papers,” Witharandeniye Nanda, a Gnanasara peer told reporters.
The magistrate complained of contempt while the Court of Appeal convicted him. Gnanasara’s appeal for pardon was later rejected by the Supreme Court.
Gnanasara who headed the ultra Buddhist nationalist Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or the Forces of Buddhist Power was sentenced by the court for contempt. He was given a six year jail term over his disruptive behaviour in court and intimidating a woman litigant in 2016.
In 2013, Gnanasara led an anti-Muslim minority stance against what he termed the rising Muslim extremism in the Buddhist majority country.
Interestingly, his release comes a month after the Easter Sunday suicide attacks by the local Jihadi group National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) which is linked to ISIS.
In 2013, Gnanasara had named the NTJ as an extremist Muslim group with violent intentions. The NTJ activists are currently being arrested in the Jihadi group’s crackdown by the security forces in the aftermath of the suicide bombings which killed over 250 people, including foreigners. Eleven Indians were among the dead.
The release of the saffron-robed monk comes a week after mobs attacked dozens of mosques, and rows Muslim-owned homes and shops in Kurunegala and Gampaha districts on May 12 and 13, in the biggest outburst of violence since the Easter attacks.