COLOMBO: The body of a Sri Lankan newspaper editor, whose assassination under the previous regime in 2009 remains unsolved, was exhumed this morning following a court order aid a new investigation into his murder.
Lasantha Wickrematunge ran the Sunday Leader, which was frequently critical of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was in power then. The exhumation was conducted by the Colombo magistrate Mohamed Mihan in the presence of medico-judicial officers under tight police protection at the Colombo General Cemetery.
The suburban Mount Lavinia court had ordered the exhumation as the Crime Investigation Department (CID) asked for it. The CID had claimed that all previous forensic reports were contradictory.
"The body was moved to the Judicial Medical Officer's office after exhumation. It will now be examined by a team of doctors," Athula S Ranagala, the lawyer of the late editor's family told reporters. He said the CID had asked for an exhumation due to the contradictory results in previous forensic reports. One of the reports had said that he died of gun shot injuries while the other cited stab wounds as the reason of his death.
Wickrematunga was murdered on a motor way at Attidiya, a Colombo suburb while he was driving to work alone on January 8, 2009. In January 2009 he had written an editorial saying he believed he would be killed by the government and that an inquiry would come to nothing. He was killed by unidentified attackers in Colombo three days later. His death came at a time of intense restrictions on the media in Sri Lanka.
After his surprise win in elections in 2014, the new president, Maithripala Sirisena, vowed to reform Sri Lanka's treatment of the media and to reopen the investigation into Wickrematunge's murder. In July, a military intelligence officer became the first person to be arrested in connection with his death. Earlier this month, a judge gave permission for his body to be exhumed, because of conflicting reports from initial autopsies. His grave has been under guard since then.