04/03/2024, 18.52
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Four years in prison and no bail for extremist Sri Lankan Buddhist monk

by Melani Manel Perera

Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero, secretary general of the Bodu Bala Sena, an organisation opposed to other religions in Sri Lanka, received two fines of 50,000 rupees each for defamatory comments about the Muslim community.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Colombo High Court has rejected the request for bail filed by Buddhist monk Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero, sentenced to four years in prison on 28 March for defamatory comments against Islam made in late 2016.

Gnanasara Thero was convicted of causing damage to national and religious harmony, which is why Judge Aditya Patabendige also imposed two fines of 50,000 rupees (US$ 165) each.

The court ruled that in case of non-payment, the prison sentence will be extended by another two years.

The cleric is secretary general of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a right-wing extremist organisation opposed to religions other than Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Kuragala is an archaeological site and a place of worship with a thousand-year history. It has prehistoric rock inscriptions and the remains of an ancient Buddhist temple complex, but also Arabic inscriptions that suggest an ancient Muslim use of the shrine.

A mosque was built last century, but since 2013 the BBS and other extremist groups have been calling for its demolition, arguing that it stands on an exclusively Buddhist archaeological site.

Gnanasara Thero also made repeated references to “Islamic invasion and aggression” and accused Christians of "forced conversions".

In February of this year, during court proceedings, he apologised to the Muslim community for his statements.

The case against him was filed following complaints by former MPs Mujibur Rahman and Azath Salley.

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