Sialkot lynching: Another 'most-wanted fugitive' arrested

Tuesday, 07 December 2021 - 9:04

The Punjab police on Monday announced the arrest of another central figure in the Sialkot lynching case, as authorities try to identify those involved in the gruesome murder through the help of cell phone and CCTV footage.

The official account of the Punjab Police tweeted an image with the caption that Imtiaz alias Billi for his role in the lynching as well as the burning of the corpse of 49-year-old Priyantha Kumara on Friday.

This takes the number of arrested prime suspects in the case to eight -- including one accused of plotting to assassinate the Sri Lankan manager, as well as one of the perpetrators of violence and incitement -- in the Sialkot incident investigation over the last 24 hours, increasing the total number of in-custody suspects to 132.

The total number of prime suspects now stands at 27 -- out of the total 132 suspects.

They added that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Bazdar and the Punjab IG were constantly monitoring the investigation of the case. The CM has assigned the task of prosecuting the case to the prosecution secretary.

The police on Sunday also arrested Adnan Iftikhar, the instigator of the tragedy as part of raids in various places.

It is pertinent to mention that an FIR has been registered against 900 unidentified persons under many sections of the law, including the Anti-Terrorism Act.

PM assures Sri Lankan president culprits will be punished

As the nation reels from the horrific Sialkot incident where a Sri Lankan manager was lynched and set ablaze by a mob, Prime Minister Imran Khan assured Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the arrested people would be prosecuted with the full severity of the law.

According to official statistics, the total number of arrested people stands at 124 -- including 19 prime suspects -- after the Punjab police arrested six more of the main suspects on Sunday in the Sialkot incident investigation. In a tweet, the police said the accused were hiding in the houses of their friends and relatives.

The authorities have said that further arrests will be made as they review thousands of calls and various video footage.

In a tweet, the PM said that he spoke to the Sri Lankan president on Saturday in UAE and conveyed the nation’s anger and shame to the people of the island. The Sialkot incident drew widespread condemnation from politicians, expatriates, leaders, and human rights bodies.

According to Aaj News, the body of the Sri Lankan manager has been sent to Lahore that will later be handed over to the Sri Lankan embassy. Moreover, new video footage of the incident showed that two people, including a manager and office employee, tried to save the Sri Lankan manager from the mob.

It also reported that a judicial magistrate in Sialkot has also granted one-day transit remand of the 13 key suspects. They would be presented before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Gujranwala on Monday.

Moreover, the wife of Engineer Priyantha Kumara has appealed to the governments of Pakistan and Sri Lanka to conduct a "fair trial and bring to justice the murder of her husband" in Pakistan.

"My husband was an innocent man. I found out from the news that after working abroad for so long he had been brutally murdered. I saw on the Internet how inhuman the killing was. I appeal to the Sri Lankan president and the Pakistani prime minister and president to conduct a fair investigation so my husband and our two children get justice," Niroshi Dasaniyake told BBC Sinhala.

118 people, including 13 prime suspects, arrested

The Punjab government on Saturday said it had arrested as many as 118 people – including 13 main suspects – in the Sialkot incident where a Sri Lankan manager was killed by a mob.

“118 people have been arrested out of 200 raids conducted as part of the investigation into the incident,” Punjab government spokesperson Hassan Khawar said in a press conference. He was accompanied by Punjab IG Rao Sardar Ali Khan.

They added that further arrests would be made as part of the investigation as the authorities have been reviewing 160 videos of almost 12 hours long as well as screening thousands of mobile calls.

According to Khawar, the initial investigation report has been submitted to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

“Justice will be served," said Khawar. "The justice done will be exemplary so that it never happens again. This incident has brought shame for the whole nation.”

A mob on Friday tortured Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara to death and then set his body ablaze on charges of blasphemy.

In his press conference, Khawar also said Kumara's postmortem has been completed and with the help of the interior ministry and foreign affairs ministry, it will be handed over to Sri Lanka's embassy.

“So far no negligence has been seen from the police side,” the Punjab IG said, adding that all the officers present in the police station reached the site as soon as information was sent to the law enforcement agency.

On a reporter’s question of an apparent police delay on reaching the site, Khawar said: “At 10:02 incident started and apparently after an hour, after 11:00 [Sri Lankan manager] he was killed. This call was sent to police at 11:28 and then after 16-17 minutes, the first response of the team reached the site. At that moment 800-900 people were there.”

Reportedly, he added the mob tried to stop police and they called for more forces. “Till the time police received first information, the Sri Lankan manager was killed,” Khawar said.

“It is too early to say what happened,” the IG said on the apparent delayed response of police on clearing the road and taking action. “If there is any lapse, we will review it and try that it does not happen again,” he added.

They added that further arrest will be made into the incident.

“Our focus is to make it a test case as it’s a moment of shame for us and the country that such an incident happened in our country,” Khawar said.