Swiss summon Sri Lankan envoy over worker’s abduction

Switzerland has summoned Sri Lanka's ambassador and asked to see the "purported evidence" that Colombo says casts doubt on claims by a Swiss embassy staff member that she was abducted.

Swiss summon Sri Lankan envoy over worker's abduction

Envoy Karunasena Hettiarachchi, who is based in Berlin, met Switzerland's State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl in Bern on Monday, a statement said. 

The diplomatic spat began when a senior Sri Lanka police officer sought asylum in Switzerland after investigating several cases involving members of the powerful Rajapaksa family — Gotabaya Rajapaksa currently serves as president.

The next day a local worker at the Swiss embassy in Colombo claimed she had been abducted and forced to hand over sensitive information —  reportedly including the names of Sri Lankans who had sought asylum in Switzerland.

According to the Swiss foreign ministry, the woman was “threatened by unidentified men” and forced “to disclose embassy-related information”.

On Sunday, Sri Lanka sought to raise doubts about the Swiss narrative, claiming ambassador Hanspeter Mock had been given “clear evidence” that the staff member's account did not add up. But in a statement issued late on Monday the Swiss foreign ministry indicated that such proof had not been shared.

The state secretary “asked Ambassador Hettiarachchi to explain the purported evidence against the events described by the embassy, which the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had alluded to”, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne has ordered the woman to make a statement to investigators by December 9 after police said they needed to interview her. The magistrate restricted her travel abroad until December 9.

The Swiss repeated that it supported Sri Lanka's desire to investigate the matter but reiterated that “the employee concerned still cannot be questioned on health grounds”.

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

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Berlin police investigate ‘Havana syndrome’ sicknesses at US embassy

Police in Berlin have opened an investigation into unexplained sicknesses that have been affecting staff at the US embassy in the German capital.

The US embassy in Berlin.
The US embassy in Berlin. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Kalaene

The investigation, which Berlin’s city authorities confirmed to Der Spiegel last week, comes after at least two members of staff at the embassy reported symptoms that correspond to the so-called Havana syndrome, an unexplained sickness that has been affecting US diplomats and spies across the globe since 2016.

The US embassy has reportedly handed over evidence to Berlin’s state detective agency.

The first cases were reported in Havana, the Cuban capital, where dozens of diplomats reported suffering nausea and headaches. There have since been cases reported in Vienna, Moscow and Singapore.

US authorities suspect that the condition is caused by a sophisticated attack using concentrated microwaves.

The fact that many of the diplomats and CIA agents affected were working on Russian affairs has led them to believe that Moscow is somehow involved – a charge that the Kremlin denies.

As far as this so-called ‘syndrome’ is concerned, US President Joe Biden has vowed to find out “the cause and who is responsible.”