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ECONOMYNEXT — General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero has been sentenced to four years of rigorous imprisonment over an allegedly defamatory comment made in 2016, a media report said.

The privately owned Ada Derana news network reported on its website that the verdict was delivered by Colombo High Court Judge Aditya Patabendige on Thursday March 28.

Other reports said the controversial monk was sentenced over a comment against Islam at the Kuragala Buddhist temple.

The monk has also been ordered to pay a fine of 100,000 rupees.

The Attorney General had filed the case against Gnanasara thero on charges of causing religious and racial disunity in Sri Lanka in the form of remarks he had made at a press conference held on March 30, 2016, reports said.

The firebrand monk has been accused of promoting Islamophobia in Sri Lanka.

In 2012, Gnanasara Thero was allegedly at the forefront of an anti-Muslim campaign which called on the majority Sinhalese to boycott Muslim-owned businesses.

The United States in 2014 cancelled a visa issued to the monk while social media platform Facebook blocked his account after the BBS’s alleged involvement in violence against Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims in the Western coastal town of Aluthgama.

He was arrested for contempt of court in 2018 during the previous administration but was later pardoned by President Maithripala Sirisnena.

Critics have said Gnanasara Thero has been used to create a rift between the Sinhala majority and Muslim minority for political reasons. But the monk has denied the allegation and has said Sri Lanka’s Sinhala majority has issues that have been ignored by politicians, issues that he had tried to address.

Since the 2019 Easter bombings, the monk has maintained that his cause is not against ordinary Muslims who have coexisted with the Sinhalese for centuries but with extremist, Wahabist elements in Muslim society.

Speaking to reporters in November last year, Gnanasara Thero said recommendations by the BBS, widely seen as an ultranationalist outfit, will make it to the proposals of the presidential task force he leads.

Related: BBS proposals will make it to ‘one country, one law’ task force: Sri Lanka hardline monk

The monk said the BBS had spoken about unethical conversions, destruction of archaeological monuments and cultural invasion. (Colombo/Mar28/2024)


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