Pastor Jerome files FR seeking court order preventing his arrest

Pastor Jerome files FR seeking court order preventing his arrest

May 26, 2023   03:19 pm

Pastor Jerome Fernando today (May 26) filed a Fundamental Rights (FR) petition with the Supreme Court seeking an order preventing the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) from arresting him.

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the DIG in charge of the CID, the CID director and the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the cybercrimes unit of the CID have been named as the respondents of the FR petition.

Pastor Fernando, who filed the FR petition through his attorneys, says the CID has initiated an investigation into a comment he had made during his sermon on April 30. The probes are carried out pursuant to the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Penal Code.

The self-styled “prophet” says the police named him a suspect after presenting submissions to the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court.

Deeming the CID’s attempts to arrest him unlawful, Pastor Fernando noted that the police have not presented any piece of evidence to the court to prove that his comments threaten the religious harmony in the country.

Pastor Fernando, who seeks a court order ruling that his fundamental rights are thus violated, also wants the Supreme Court to prevent the respondents from arresting him until the hearing of the FR petition is concluded.

Pastor Fernando found himself in hot water due to allegations that it included derogatory statements related to Lord Buddha and other religious figures after a video of his sermon was widely circulated on social media, stirring much controversy in the country.

On May 15, President Ranil Wickremesinghe ordered the CID to launch an immediate investigation into the matter, citing that such statements could create religious conflicts and harm the country’s harmony.

The New Buddhist Front (‘Nawa Bikshu Peramuna’) and the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) also lodged a complaint with the CID, seeking the immediate arrest of the Pastor and that strict legal action be initiated against him.

Later, an overseas travel ban was imposed against the Pastor on orders of the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court on May 16, as per a request made by the CID. Fernando, however, left for Singapore on May 14.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Police said Pastor Jerome can be arrested upon his return to the island due to the overseas travel ban.

On May 18, Ven. Gunawansa Thero and several others lodged an FR petition seeking a Supreme Court order directing the police chief to arrest Pastor Fernando and to take legal action against him.

In a live-streamed video, Pastor Fernando issued an apology, stating that “I have done nothing wrong. And while I have done nothing wrong, I want to yet apologize to my Buddhist brothers, Hindu brothers, Muslim brothers and sisters, if my words by any means have hurt you emotionally”.

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