Controversial Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Gnanasara sentenced for six months

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: June 15, 2018

In 2016, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the secretary general of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or “Buddhist Power Force,” interrupted a court hearing over the abduction of journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda. He shouted at the judge and lawyers because the accused military intelligence officials had not been allowed bail and threatened Eknaligoda’s wife Sandhya Eknaligoda


Sri lankan Monk
Image Courtesy: The Hindu
 
Colombo: In Sri Lanka, it is very rare for a Buddhist monk to be found in prison or be convicted of a crime. In an unheard-of verdict, A Sri Lankan court jailed a Buddhist monk for six months for inciting violence against Muslims and intimidating the wife of a missing journalist.
 
In 2016, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the secretary general of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or “Buddhist Power Force,” interrupted a court hearing over the abduction of journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda. He shouted at the judge and lawyers because the accused military intelligence officials had not been allowed bail and threatened Eknaligoda’s wife Sandhya Eknaligoda. He had called her husband an “LTTE spy.”
 
“Many Sri Lankans welcomed the development on social media as one giving hope amidst concern over the impunity enjoyed by the saffron robe in the Sinhala-Buddhist majority country,” reported The Hindu. “Last year the monk was pursued by the police in connection with attacks against Muslims. He later handed himself in and was granted bail,” reported BBC.
 
“On Thursday, Magistrate Udesh Ranathunga sentenced the monk to two terms of six months in jail, to be served concurrently, as well as a fine of 1,500 rupees and a payment of 50,000 rupees ($313) as compensation to the journalist’s wife. The judge rejected Gnanasara’s request to make a statement after he expressed disagreement with the sentence. He was taken to prison while fellow monks, who attended the hearing in his support, chanted Buddhist scriptures,” a report by Reuters stated.
 
It also reported that “The monk has faced accusations in cases regarding anti-Muslim violence, hate speech, and defaming the Koran, the Muslim holy book. The BBS, led by Gnanasara, has been alleged by Muslims and some government ministers to have stirred up violence against Muslims and Christian, mainly in Buddhist-dominated parts of Sri Lanka, allegations the monk has denied. In 2014, Gnanasara signed a pact with Myanmar’s Ashin Wirathu, who once called himself “the Burmese Bin Laden” in what they called the first step in a broad alliance against conversions by Islamists in the region.”
 
The Hindu reported, “Speaking to the media after the sentence Ms. Eknaligoda, who has been campaigning with relatives of thousands of missing persons all over the island, said it was the duty of the citizen to ensure the rule of law is upheld and strengthened. “I think I have been able to do that today, the magistrate has punished him [the monk]. I am happy that this judgment and sentence was delivered. It sends a message that intimidating and harassing anyone — especially a woman — inside a courthouse will not be tolerated in the future,” she said.”