Colombo – A firebrand Buddhist monk was sentenced to six months in jail by a Sri Lanka court Thursday for intimidating a woman whose cartoonist husband has been missing since his abduction by the military.
The court in Homagama, near the capital Colombo, also fined Galagodaatte Gnanasara 1,500 rupees ($10) and ordered him to pay 50,000 rupees ($310) in compensation to Sandya Eknaligoda for abusing her in January 2016.
This is the first time Gnanasara has been put behind bars although he has faced several previous cases on charges of hate crimes against minority Muslims in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka.
He was found guilty of criminally intimidating Eknaligoda during a hearing at the same court on the abduction of her cartoonist husband Prageeth, who went missing in January 2010.
Gnanasara had been there to voice his support for the military officers accused of abducting Prageeth, whose cartoons lampooned former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.
In ugly scenes inside the courthouse, he accused Eknaligoda and her husband of supporting Tamil extremists and bringing the military into disrepute.
Eknaligoda’s perseverance in campaigning to find out what happened to her husband earned her an “International Women of Courage” award last year from US First Lady Melania Trump.
Following Thursday’s sentencing, saffron-robed Gnanasara sat on a bench inside the packed courthouse awaiting a prison vehicle to take him away.
Last year the monk spent a month on the run as police pursued him in connection with a string of attacks against Muslims. He later surrendered and was granted bail.
His Buddhist Force, or BBS, has denied allegations it was behind riots against Muslims in 2017 and 2014 that left four people dead.
Gnanasara maintains close ties with Wirathu, an extremist monk based in Myanmar, whose hate speech has stoked religious tensions in the country.
Wirathu visited Sri Lanka as a guest of Gnanasara shortly after the 2014 violence in Sri Lanka’s tourist resort of Aluthgama.