09/27/2016, 10.28
SRI LANKA
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Body of the journalist killed for criticizing government to be exhumed

Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed in 2009 in broad daylight on his way to work. He had been a stalwart critic of the corruption of the government led by President Rajapaksa, human rights violations and the war against the Tamil Tigers. His tomb is guarded, to prevent retaliation of his killers who are still at large.


 

Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed in 2009 in broad daylight on his way to work. He had been a stalwart critic of the corruption of the government led by President Rajapaksa, human rights violations and the war against the Tamil Tigers. His tomb is guarded, to prevent retaliation of his killers who are still at large.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - A court in Sri Lanka has decided to exhume the body of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, killed in 2009 for his critical stance against the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The decision may help turn the new investigation into his murder, since the first autopsy had shown conflicting results.

Wickrematunge was the editor of the "Sunday Leader" and was killed on 8 January 2009 by two strangers on his way to work. The newspaper had criticized the government for widespread corruption, the war against the Tamil Tigers and the violations of human rights. Just three days before his assassination he had written an editorial in which he stated he knew that he would be killed shortly by the government, and that any investigation into his murder would be inconclusive.

After his death, journalists, media professionals and the public had protested against the government, accusing it of collusion with the killers and threatening press freedom in the country. Wickrematunge also posthumously received the World Press Freedom Prize awarded by UNESCO to those who are fighting for the freedom of press and expression.

In 2014 the Ministry of Defence, headed by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (brother of President Mahinda), issued a circular in which it banned non-governmental organizations from holding press conferences, workshops, training courses for journalists. The move was opposed by all the local organizations, which termed it as an attempt to silence activists and journalists.

In January 2015, when Maithripala Sirisena was elected to the presidency, he promised to reform media legislation and to reopen the investigation into the journalist's death. A first turning point came in July this year, when one person connected to the murder of Wickrematunge was arrested.

Since the Sri Lankan court issued the decision to exhume the body, the director’s grave has been guarded round the clock  by security forces to prevent any retaliation by his killers who are still at large.

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