The Sri Lankan court started the first of three trials related to the bombing, which killed nearly 270 people.
The Sri Lankan court has begun the first of three trials related to the bombing that killed nearly 270 people on the island in 2019, while calling on victim support groups to increase accountability.
In the trial that began on Monday, former national police chief Pujith Jayasundara was accused of failing to act on repeated intelligence warnings of possible terrorist attacks.
When Jayasundara stood in the dock at the back of the court, a total of 855 murder and attempted murder charges were read. His lawyer said that a total of 1,215 witnesses were included on the testimony list, but not all of them can be summoned.
“Our position is that the former police chief is not guilty. He did not intentionally assist or abet the attack, nor did he negligently cause the attack,” said lawyer Ranjith Dehiwala.
Former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, who was a senior official at the Ministry of Defense at the time, faced similar charges in a trial that began late Monday. He and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Both were released on bail.
The third trial will begin on Tuesday and will try the 24 men charged with the assault.
The police filed more than 23,000 charges against the suspect, including conspiracy to murder, aiding and abetting assault, and collecting weapons and ammunition. The organization also includes Mohammad Naufer, which officials said planned the attack and was related to the Islamic State.
A series of attacks on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 targeted three churches and three hotels, killing 267 people, including at least 45 foreigners.
The attack was the worst in Sri Lanka’s turbulent history. It also injured about 500 people, most of whom belonged to a small number of Christian communities on the island.
On Sunday, dozens of members of the Catholic community staged protests and laid flowers at various events organized to commemorate those killed in the attack.
Participants called on the government to support the survivors and ensure that the trial can proceed without political interference.
“We hope to get real justice from this process. This is what we call on officials to provide. We have been waiting for a long time, and we hope that those who are really responsible will be held accountable for what happened,” said Eranga Gunasekera, a member of the Victim Support Group. Said at the memorial ceremony held in Colombo.