Sri Lanka arrests top prison official over jail massacre

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s police Thursday announced arresting a senior prison official in connection with the 2012 massacre of 27 inmates at the high security Welikada jail.

Prisons Commissioner Emil Ranjan Lamahewage was taken into custody from his official residence near the prison on Wednesday night, a day after a police inspector was also taken into custody, police said in a statement.

Lamahewage was in charge of the maximum security prison as its superintendent when the military and special task force commandoes were called in to quell a riot in November 2012.

The following morning, 27 inmates were found killed execution-style. Witnesses have said that security forces called the inmates out by name and shot them dead in cold blood.

Investigations had been extremely slow, but in July last year the police was asked to reopen the case after allegations that several senior of the former regime were responsible for ordering the killings.

Among those killed were suspects in custody over the killing of a Buddhist monk at a Kotte temple. That killing was allegedly linked to a robbery at the national museum where several swords went missing.

Lamahewage had been promoted since the massacre and the prison website gave his title as “Commissioner of Prisons – Rehabilitation – covering up duties (sic).  Police said he would certainly face a charge of covering up in addition to a direct role in the massacre.

The killings heightened international condemnation of former president Rajapakse’s regime which was already facing strictures over rights abuses in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist war that ended in 2009 and thereafter. (COLOMBO, march 29, 2018)

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