Sri Lankan court acquits 5 men accused in lawmaker's death

AP News
Posted: Dec 24, 2016 12:31 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A Sri Lankan court on Saturday acquitted five suspects including three navy personnel who were accused in the shooting death of an outspoken ethnic Tamil lawmaker.

Nadaraja Raviraj was shot dead in his car in 2006 during the country's long civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels, which ended in 2009. He was an advocate for greater self-rule for minority Tamils and had explained the Tamil perspective of the conflict in Sinhala, the language of the majority.

The verdict was delivered by High Court Judge Manilal Waidyatilleke at 12:25 a.m. on Saturday, following the unanimous decision reached by the seven-member jury in the monthlong trial.

Raviraj's killing was widely condemned by the international community. At the time of his killing, the government of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had blamed the assassination on the rebels, but Raviraj's supporters suspected a government hand.

Following Rajapaksa's defeat in last year's election, the new government announced that it would re-investigate several unsolved high-profile assassinations, including that of Raviraj, which occurred during Rajapaksa's nine-year reign. The three navy intelligence officers were arrested in March last year.

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The Tamil Tiger rebels were defeated by government troops in 2009, ending a 26-year war to create a separate state for Tamils. Both sides were accused of committing war crimes, and Rajapaksa's administration was accused of operating paramilitary groups to kill and abduct rebel suspects and dissidents.