Court orders fresh autopsy on slain Sri Lanka editor

ECONOMYNEXT – A Sri Lankan court Thursday ordered a fresh autopsy on the body of a anti-establishment newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga as new evidence emerged linking his murder to a high profile member of the former regime.

The Mount Lavinia magistrate Mohamed Sahabdeen granted a request by the police criminal investigation department for the fresh forensic report on the January 2009 killing of Wickrematunga.

Armed police were seen Thursday at Wickrematunga’s grave  at the Colombo General cemetery. The body is due to be exhumed on September 27.

Former Public Relations Minister Mervyn Silva publicly accused former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabhaya, the then defence secretary, of ordering Wickrematunga’s murder.

Gotabhaya has denied involvement, but sources close to the investigation said that they had uncovered a considerable amount of evidence to indict the main suspect who is yet to be officially named.

"The people who carried out the attack have been identified and two of them are already in custody," the source said.

Mobile phone operators who had been unwilling to cooperate during the previous regime were now going out of their way to retrieve data that had been allegedly been erased years ago, the source said.

In July, Wickrematunga’s driver, who was not with the editor at the time of the killing, identified a man who had subsequently abducted him (the driver) and threatened him with death if he linked a member of the Rajapaksa family to the killing.

The Sunday Leader editor had told colleagues a few days before his assassination that he was going to "take Gota to the cleaners" by filing evidence of a corrupt aircraft deal at the Mount Lavinia courts. He was killed just before that court hearing.

Police at the time claimed that Wickrematunga was shot dead in his car, but a police source said the idea of the fresh autopsy was to conclusively establish the actual cause.

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There are several cases of falsifying judicial medical records during the former regime in an effort to cover up major crime.

"We need to establish how Lasantha was killed," the source said asking not to be named, "before we can start a prosecution. We want to tie up all the loose ends before we make a high profile arrest." (COLOMBO, Sept 8, 2016)

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