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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2730

Raviraj Murder: Court acquitted five accused - Sumanthiran faults all-Sinhala jury

Colombo, 25 December, (Asiantribune.com):

The High Court of Colombo, on Friday night, acquitted five men, including three navy intelligence officers, charged with assassinating the TNA Jaffna district MP Nadaraja Raviraj - an opposition Tamil legislator, after they were found not guilty. Immediately the TNA raised concerns about judicial integrity.

The verdict delivered by High Court Judge Manilal Waidyatilleke on Saturday night as per the unanimous decision reached by the jury, comes following one month long trial.

The jury’s decision was that the accused cannot be convicted based solely on the fact that they were identified several witnesses in the case. The High Court allowed to proceed with the Raviraj murder trial in absentia of the three accused Palana Sami Suresh alias Sami, Sivakanthan Vivekanandan alias Charan, and Fabian Royston Tusen, who were evading Court since the initiation of investigations.

The indictments were filed against six accused Palana Sami Suresh alias Sami, Prasad Chandana Kumara alias Sampath, Gamini Seneviratne, Pradeep Chaminda alias Vajira, Sivakanthan Vivekanandan alias Charan, and Fabian Royston Tusen on five counts, including committing the murder of former MP Nadaraja Raviraj and his security officer Lokuwella Murage Laksman under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Penal Code.

Three accused who were not present before Court, had been identified as ex-LTTE cadres affiliated to the Karuna faction. Wijeya Wickrema Manamperige Sanjaya Preethi Viraj was made State witness for the Raviraj murder trial.

Raviraj was shot dead near his residence at Manning Town in Narahenpita during the period between November 9, 2006 and November 10, 2006 when he was driving his vehicle along Martha Road. The CID recovered the three wheeler and the weapon alleged to have been used in the killing of the former Parliamentarian.

Senior Deputy Solicitor General Rohantha Abeysooriya with Senior State Counsel Suharshi Herath appeared for the Attorney General. Senior Counsel Anuja Premaratne with Rasika Balasuriya, Yuran Liyanage appeared for the accused, while Counsel K.V. Thavarasa appeared for the aggrieved party. Counsel Darshana Ranmuthuge appeared for the State Witness.

TNA spokesman and fellow member of parliament M. A. Sumanthiran said the acquittal confirmed their fears that the victim could not expect a fair trail by a jury consisting only of those of the majority Sinhala-speaking community.

"It became an ‘us’ (majority Sinhalese) versus ‘them’ (minority Tamils) issue and shows we were right to object to this jury, but our position was rejected by the judge," Sumanthiran told AFP.

He said the court verdict underscored the need for independent international judicial experts to investigate allegations of war crimes during the 37-year-long Tamil separatist war which ended in May 2009.

He added that the five men were charged with executing the assassination, but those who had ordered it were still at large.

"What came out clearly in the case is that state intelligence services were involved in carrying out the assassination, but those who gave orders were never identified and prosecuted," Sumanthiran said.

Human rights organisations have accused government forces of killing political opponents and suspected Tamil rebel sympathisers during Rajapaksa’s rule.

Sri Lanka’s new government, which came to power in January last year promising accountability for war time atrocities and ethnic reconciliation, has so far refused to allow international judges in any war crimes probe.

- Asian Tribune -

Raviraj Murder:  Court acquitted five accused - Sumanthiran faults all-Sinhala jury
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