Swiss embassy worker arrested in Sri Lanka

The Swiss embassy worker, with pink shawl, being escorted to a court in Colombo on Monday. Associated Press

Police in Sri Lanka have arrested a local employee of the Swiss embassy in Colombo, accusing her of “fabricating evidence” relating to a kidnapping incident some weeks ago.

This content was published on December 16, 2019 - 15:56

Sri Lankan authorities on Monday said the state prosecutor had ordered police to arrest the woman and charge her with “stoking anti-government sentiment and fabricating evidence to be used in a court proceeding”.

In response, the Swiss foreign ministry voiced its “concern” in a statement published Monday eveningExternal link. It also demanded that Sri Lanka adhere to “national law and international standards”, and that it better protect the woman’s right to privacy in future.

The woman, a Sri Lankan national, claims to have been held on the street for a few hours on November 25 and threatened by unidentified men looking for “embassy-related information”.

The incident, described by the Swiss embassy as an “unacceptable attack”, happened one day after a senior Sri Lankan police officer, who had been investigating several cases involving the entourage of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, had arrived in Switzerland to apply for asylum.

The Rajapaksa government has since ordered airport immigration authorities to block any police officers seeking to leave the country without permission.

Disputed facts

The incident quickly escalated into a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Sri Lanka questioned the employee’s version of eventsExternal link, citing technical evidence, including Uber records, CCTV footage, telephone records and GPS data.

In response, Swiss authorities summoned the Sri Lankan ambassador to Switzerland on December 2 and demanded an explanation of this evidence. 

Last week, a judge in Colombo ordered the woman be examined by a court-approved doctor and forced her to stay in Sri Lanka for the purposes of the investigation. According to the Swiss embassy, the employee was not medically fit to talk about what happened to her.

The Swiss Keystone-SDA news agency said on Monday that it was not yet clear if the woman had been formally charged. It quoted the DailyMirror online, a Sri Lankan newspaper, as reporting that she will be held in custody until December 30.

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