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Sri Lankan military intelligence officers suspected in journalist's murder

Media rights activists light candles in front of the portrait of slain Sri Lankan newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga during a silent vigil to condemn his killing in Colombo, January 15, 2009. (Reuters/Buddhika Weerasinghe)

New York, February 23, 2017--Sri Lankan authorities should fully investigate the 2009 murder of an editor and bring his killers to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Five military intelligence officers were arrested this week in connection with the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga, the editor-in-chief of the weekly Sunday Leader and a fierce critic of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, according to news reports.

Sri Lankan police arrested an army major and two soldiers on Saturday and two additional soldiers on Sunday, according to media reports. The five men were initially taken into custody on suspicion of having played a role in the 2008 abduction and assault of columnist Keith Noyahr, but during the investigation, police found evidence that the men might also be linked to Wickramatunga's murder, according to media reports. A magistrate's court ordered police to hold the five men until March 3 for questions.

"Any real progress in the investigation into the murder of Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickramatunga would be welcome news," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "We call on police and prosecutors to leave no stone unturned in their quest to make sure the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice."

Wickramatunga was on his way to work in January 2009 when eight helmeted men on four motorcycles beat him with iron bars and wooden poles on a busy street outside Colombo. He died in a local hospital a few hours later. Police in September exhumed Wickramatunga's body for a new post-mortem examination.

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