The Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court has ordered the release of detained Sri Lankan university student leader Wasantha Mudalige from a terror charges case but he will remain in remand custody over a number of other ongoing cases, a media report said.
The privately owned NewsFirst reported that the court had ordered the release of Mudalige Tuesday January 31 afternoon from the case that saw him detained under provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The report said, however, that Mudalige will continue to be held in remand custody in connection with a number of other cases.
Mudalige, who is convenor of the Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF), was arrested in August 18 after a protest march held in Colombo and has been detained for over 150 days.
Opposition parties, civil society activists and international organisations such as Amnesty International have called for Mudalige’s release along with calls for a repeal of the PTA.
The IUSF and other leftist groups have organised large-scale protests against the government demanding his release, which were met with tough resistance by the authorities.
Mudalige’s release from the PTA-related case comes a day ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group which will scrutinise Sri Lanka’s human rights record when it meets for the fourth time. The PTA is reportedly to be taken up for discussion at the event.
The student leader has been an undergraduate student for nearly a decade.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has been criticised by human rights defenders and opposition lawmakers for an alleged crackdown on Sri Lanka’s anti-government Aragalaya protests in 2022, insinuated in a speech in parliament in November that Mudalige is no university student as he has still hasn’t finished his studies.
Critics of the IUSF and even some sympathisers have spoken critically of what they call Mudalige’s “state-funded overstay”. Others, however, have defended Mudalige and other student leaders as those doing important and necessary work by fighting in the trenches to protect and uphold the people’s rights.