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A vigil for journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga is seen in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on January 15, 2009. A U.S. court recently dismissed a civil suit against former Secretary of Defense Gotabaya Rajapaksa over his alleged involvement in the killing. (Reuters/Buddhika Weerasinghe)

US court dismisses suit against former Sri Lankan defense secretary over murder of Sri Lankan journalist Wickramatunga

October 22, 2019 1:07 PM ET

New York, October 22, 2019 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists is dismayed by a U.S. District Court’s decision to dismiss a civil lawsuit against former Sri Lankan Secretary of Defense Gotabaya Rajapaksa over his alleged involvement in the 2009 killing of Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California said in an October 17 filing that it lacked jurisdiction for the suit, filed by the journalist’s daughter, Ahimsa Wickramatunga, because the allegations pertained to Rajapaksa’s actions as a state official.

The Center for Justice and Accountability, which represents Ahimsa Wickramatunga, said in a statement that it would appeal the court’s decision.

“CPJ is dismayed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit against Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Once again there has been failure to deliver justice for Lasantha Wickramatunga and journalists who have been attacked and killed in Sri Lanka.”

Rajapaksa was a U.S. citizen when the lawsuit was filed against him in April, as CPJ reported at the time, but he renounced his citizenship in August so he could make a bid for the Sri Lankan presidency, according to news reports. In a campaign press conference earlier this month, he said that soldiers accused of attacks against journalists during the country’s civil war had been framed, according to news reports.

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