ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka's former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was behind a secret death squad that targeted journalists and other political dissidents, the Mount Lavinia Magistrate's court was told today.
The Criminal Investigations Department reported recording a statement from former army chief Sarath Fonseka who claimed that the then-military intelligence chief Kapila Hendawitharana operated the squad and took his orders directly from Rajapaksa.
Fonseka's testimony was presented to court, implicating Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for the first time in an ongoing murder investigation.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has denied involvement in the killing, and accused the government of leading a political vendetta against him and other members of his family.
The CID reported that Fonseka never participated at meetings of the Colombo intelligence unit, but it was handled by Hendawitharana and directly reported to Rajapaksa bypassing the then army commander.
The court was told that several army commandos were also attached to the special hit squad, which operated out of a camp at the old Tripoli market in Maradana.
The court was also told that a second autopsy on Lasantha Wickrematunga showed that he was stabbed to death using a sharp instrument.
Wickrematunga's body was exhumed in September after allegations that the original autopsy report had been falsified to mislead the investigation.
A three-member panel of judicial medical officers gave the new autopsy report, which quashed the previous one.
Five military intelligence officers in custody since last month in connection with the assault on Keith Noyahr in May 2008 are also linked to the Wickrematunga assassination, police said. (COLOMBO, March 20, 2017)