Sri Lanka wrangles with Switzerland over embassy staffer abduction

AFP Colombo, Sri Lanka Dec 02, 2019, 06.01 PM(IST)

File photo.  Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The alleged abduction came one day after a top Sri Lanka police officer sought asylum in Switzerland and the Swiss government has made an official protest.

Sri Lanka on Sunday raised doubts about claims by a Swiss embassy staff member that she was abducted and demanded access to the woman who has said she was forced to hand over sensitive information.

The alleged abduction came one day after a top Sri Lanka police officer sought asylum in Switzerland and the Swiss government has made an official protest.

Sri Lanka's foreign ministry said however that Swiss ambassador Hanspeter Mock was briefed Sunday about the inquiry and told that the staff member's account did not add up.

"The ambassador was presented with clear evidence that the sequence of events and timeline of the alleged incident ... did not in any way correspond with the actual movements of the alleged victim on that date," said a ministry statement.

Police had interviewed witnesses and secured technical evidence, including Uber records, CCTV footage, telephone records and GPS data, it added.

The ministry insisted that the embassy employee be interviewed and also undergo a medical examination. The Swiss embassy has said the woman is suffering from "deteriorating health".

"The embassy has been requested to cooperate fully with the government of Sri Lanka to establish the veracity of the claims relating to this alleged incident," said the statement.

"Given that the alleged victim had also claimed that she had sustained injuries during the alleged abduction, it was noted that she should be presented for a medical examination by a judicial medical officer in Sri Lanka."

The ministry statement came one day after the Swiss embassy gave first details of how the staffer was abducted on Monday and "seriously threatened".

"The employee was detained against their will in the street, forced to get into a car, seriously threatened at length by unidentified men and forced to disclose embassy-related information," the embassy had said on Saturday.

The Swiss government has said it "considers the incident to be very serious and an unacceptable attack on one of its diplomatic missions and its employees."

The ambassador has already protested to the Sri Lankan government.

The staffer was reportedly forced to open her mobile phone and reveal the names of Sri Lankans who had sought asylum in Switzerland.

The police officer who fled to Switzerland had been investigating several cases involving members of the Rajapaksa family who regained power after Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a November 16 election.

The government this week alerted airport immigration authorities to stop any police officer leaving the country without permission.