By Quintus Colombage
A Sri Lankan court has sentenced a controversial Buddhist monk to six years in prison for contempt of court.
Hard-line Buddhist monk Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera was sentenced for contempt of court for shouting at a judge, lawyers and the wife of a missing journalist in 2016.
Gnanasara Thera was found guilty in May over a courthouse threat he made against Sandya Ekneligoda, the wife of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, for which he was sentenced to six months in jail. The 2016 court hearing was over the abduction of Prageeth in which government military intelligence officials were accused.
Gnanasara Thera serves as the general secretary of hard-line Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or Buddhist Power Force, which has been blamed for an increase in attacks against the island nation’s Muslim and Christian minorities.
Sandya, who was awarded the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women Courage Award in 2017 for her effort to seek justice for her husband, welcomed the recent sentence.
“This is an important verdict for all people including victims who fight for their rights,” said Sandya, who is also a well-known campaigner against enforced disappearances.
“A clear message has given to victims of abductions and rights activists who have been threatened and intimidated,” she told ucanews.com.
Her husband Prageeth was abducted in January 2010, two days before a presidential election. He had written several articles that were critical of then president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Aabideen, a Muslim businessman from Kandy, said Gnanasara Thera and the BBS have engaged in anti-Muslim campaigns.
“The monk in particular played a leading role against the country’s minority Muslim community,” Aabideen said.
BBS said that they have accepted the judgment but they will appeal the sentence.
The most recent anti-Muslim violence occurred earlier this year near Kandy in Sri Lanka’s Central Province. Two people were killed and nearly 450 Muslim-owned homes and numerous shops were damaged.