Sri Lankan leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa says Swiss embassy employee's claim of abduction part of plan to discredit him

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said reports of the alleged abduction of a Swiss Embassy employee appeared in foreign media before the facts were established. PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AP) - Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Thursday (Dec 19) that he has become the victim in the alleged abduction of a Swiss Embassy employee who was reportedly threatened and sexually abused to disclose embassy-related information.

Mr Rajapaksa said reports of the alleged abduction appeared in foreign media before the facts were established, and critics accused his government of carrying it out.

"Now it is very clear. Actually in this case the victim is me, it is not that lady," Mr Rajapaksa said in comments to foreign media.

"Ït is very clear that it is a planned thing to discredit me and the government," he said. "Over the years they were talking about white vans and all the abductions. Now they want to say immediately after my election this was taking place," Mr Rajapaksa said.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry has called the alleged Nov 25 abduction of embassy employee Garnier Banister Francis a "very serious and unacceptable attack" and summoned Sri Lanka's ambassador to demand an investigation. It also criticised a lack of due process in the case.

Police have detained Ms Francis pending charges that she made statements to create disaffection toward the government and fabricated evidence.

Mr Rajapaksa says evidence collected by investigators does not match Ms Francis' account.

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis phoned his Sri Lankan counterpart, Mr Dinesh Gunawardena, on Wednesday to discuss the case.

A Sri Lankan statement said Mr Gunawardena emphasised that the government has "fully complied with national law and international judicial standards, and that any assertion to the contrary was factually inaccurate".

Mr Rajapaksa became president after winning a Nov 16 election. Shortly after that, a Sri Lankan police investigator, Mr Nishantha Silva, fled to Switzerland.

Mr Silva had been investigating alleged abductions, torture, killings and enforced disappearances of journalists and activists when Mr Rajapaksa was defence chief under the presidency of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been accused of overseeing what were known as "white van" abduction squads that whisked away critics. Some were returned after being tortured. Others were never seen again.

Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa has denied the allegations.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.