Sri Lanka sentences top cop and five others to death

Rajapakse`s own son was accused of being involved in the controversial murder of a rugby player in May 2012, which the former leader denies.

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 27, 2015, 20:56 PM IST

Colombo: A Sri Lankan court on Friday sentenced a top police officer, his son and four other police to death for the abduction and murder of a businessman in 2013.

The court in Colombo found deputy inspector general Vaas Gunawardena guilty of killing Mohamed Shiyam in return for 10 million rupees ($71,000) from a business rival, making him the highest ranking officer to be convicted of murder.

At the time, extrajudicial killings were rife in Sri Lanka, and many such disappearances were never investigated.

The senior officer`s role was only discovered when CCTV footage showed Shiyam being taken away in a vehicle driven by Gunawardena`s son Ravindu, who was among the six people convicted and sentenced to death on Friday.

Four officers who worked closely with Gunawardena were also found guilty and sentenced to death for their role in abducting and killing the businessman.

Sri Lanka`s security forces regularly kidnapped and killed troublesome opponents during the island nation`s civil war, a practice that continued after the conflict ended in 2009.

The practice was so well-known that people began referring to it as being "white-vanned", a reference to the vehicles often used to abduct victims.

Former president Mahinda Rajapakse, who was ousted in a January election, and his administration face international condemnation over failure to ensure accountability for extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces and the police.

Rajapakse`s own son was accused of being involved in the controversial murder of a rugby player in May 2012, which the former leader denies.

Police had initially dismissed the death of national rugby skipper Wasim Thajudeen as the result of a road accident, but following the change of government, police have reopened the case and launched a murder investigation.

The Rajapakse government always denied any involvement in abductions and said police could not be expected to prevent criminals using the tactic to settle scores.