The trial of 25 men accused of plotting the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that killed nearly 270 people, including at least 45 foreign nationals, has been adjourned until March to allow time for the indictments to be translated.
The accused face more than 23,000 charges including conspiracy to murder, collecting arms and ammunition, as well as aiding and abetting the attacks – the worst in the history of the South Asian island nation.
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Last November, a Sri Lankan court began the first of three trials connected to the bombings that targeted three hotels and three churches in 2019. The series of devastating bombings also injured about 500 people, mostly belonging to the island nation’s minority Christian community.
Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from the capital, Colombo, said the trial was to continue after the charges were translated to the Tamil language, which the majority of the suspects speak.
She added that the trial was also adjourned to provide time for some of the suspects who could not afford to get lawyers in November to acquire legal representation.
“Sri Lanka’s bar association is offering help to assign lawyers to help with legal representation to suspects,” she said.
She added: “It is a little bit of housekeeping at this stage. These things need to be done before the case can proceed.”
Former National Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara is charged in the case with failing to act on repeated intelligence warnings of a possible “terror” attack.
Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, the top official in the defence ministry at the time, faces similar charges of negligence of duty by failing to prevent the attacks despite receiving intelligence information in advance.
The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka however, has challenged the government’s investigations, saying the truth of who was really behind the attacks is being hidden.
Roman Catholic archdiocese of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, has said that he believes the real conspirators are still at large and has accused authorities of trying to shield the masterminds.
Citing speeches in parliament by the legislators, Ranjith said intelligence personnel also allegedly had a suspect released from police custody.
The government has defended its investigations into the attacks.
Dozens of other people are in detention in connection with bombings, but they have not been charged yet.
Two local Muslim groups that allegedly pledged allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group were blamed for the attacks. Earlier this year, Sri Lanka banned 11 organisations, including ISIL and al-Qaeda.
Anyone linked to the groups – the other nine of which are local religious and social organisations – faces up to 20 years in jail, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a gazette notification last April.