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Sri Lanka rejects Swiss request to fly staffer for treatment

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the government has rejected a request from the Swiss Embassy to allow one of its local employees to be flown out for medical treatment after a group allegedly abducted and threatened her to disclose embassy information.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said the woman has not made a statement to police about the incident despite repeated requests. Switzerland has said the woman is not able to give a statement because of ill health.

“A request has come to fly her and her family out of the country to Switzerland for medical treatment,” Gunawardena said, adding that Swiss officials tried to bring an ambulance aircraft for the purpose.

On Tuesday, the government obtained a court order blocking the embassy employee from leaving the country without making a police statement. Gunawardena said despite not receiving a formal complaint from either the woman or the Swiss ambassador about the Nov. 25 incident, police carried out an investigation based on limited information provided by the ambassador and found there was “very little truth” to the allegation.

“We feel this is all another step of misinformation, bringing falsehood, throwing mud at the political leadership of our country,” Gunawardena said. Gunawardena on Wednesday summoned all foreign envoys based in Colombo to explain the government’s position.

The Sri Lankan government said earlier that evidence collected on the woman’s movements and technical information did not support the sequence of events given by the embassy. The Swiss foreign ministry said Monday that State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl summoned Sri Lankan Ambassador Karunasena Hettiarachchi and asked him to explain the evidence.

She also said Switzerland had no interest in delaying investigations by Sri Lankan authorities, but that the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs “takes its responsibilities to its staff very seriously.”

A Sri Lankan police investigator, Nishantha Silva, fled to Switzerland following the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president on Nov. 16. Silva had been investigating alleged abductions, torture, killings and enforced disappearances of journalists and activists when Rajapaksa was the defense chief under his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency from 2005 to 2015.

As defense chief, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was accused of overseeing what were known as “white van” abduction squads that whisked away critics. Some of them were returned after being tortured, while others were never seen again.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa has denied the allegations.

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