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Udathalawinna murder case:

Five Army men sentenced to death, Ratwattes acquitted

THE Trial-at-Bar which heard the Udathalawinna massacre case yesterday sentenced five Army personnel including a Lieutenant to death.

They were found guilty to the charges preferred against them for the murder of 10 youth on December 5, 2001 when the General Election was held.

The five Army personnel are Lt. Ranjith Wijeratne, Susil de Silva, Kamala Wijeratne, Anura Kumara and Buddhi Dissanayake.

They were also sentenced to 20 years' rigorous imprisonment each for the five other counts including unlawful assembly and obstructing voters without allowing them to cast their vote.

The Bench which comprised High Court Judge Deepani Wijesundera, President and High Court Judge Nihal Sunil Rajapakse acquitted former Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, his two sons Lohan and Chanuka and five other security personnel of Gen. Ratwatte.

They are Nishantha Kuruppu Krishan Wijeratne, Shan Wanigasekera, Nalin Rathgama and Kingsley Vitharana.

Earlier, President of the Trial-at-Bar High Court Judge Eric Basnayake was later appointed as a Judge of the Court of Appeal.

Delivering 706-page judgement, Judge Wijesundera observed that the Attorney General's Department should set up a separate unit to prepare indictment before they are served on the accused.

Evidence led before court mentioned about the second accused. But the charges were framed against the third accused. When there was clear evidence against the second accused, why were the charges framed against the third accused, the Judge observed.

Court is unable to believe how this happened. This is sheer negligence on the part of the Senior Attorney who prepared the indictment.

The Attorney General's Department should properly prepare the indictments before they are served on the accused, the Judge observed.

The Judge Wijesundera in her lengthy judgement stated that the court could only consider the evidence led before court and not any other material placed before court by the counsel for the prosecution and the defence.

The Bench totally refused to accept the evidence of Abdul Malik, who was the main prosecution witness and the person who was injured following the shooting incident.

The Bench has considered the evidence of the Officials who gave evidence for the prosecution and had accepted them, specially the Government Analyst and the Judicial Medical Officers.

"Our judgement was based on their evidence. Their evidence is consistent," Judge Wijesundera added.

The Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar heard the case for nearly three years.

They were charged on 72 counts including unlawful assembly, obstructing the voters without allowing them to cast their votes and killing 10 Muslim youth on December 5, 2001.

When the Bench asked the 5 accused about the sentenceing they said that they were innocent. On an application by Deputy Solicitor General Palitha Fernando two accused, Nimal Siriwardena and Mahinda Dissanayake were released during the trial.

Deputy Solicitor General Palitha Fernando led the Prosecution team with Senior State Counsel Achala Wengappuli, Senior State Counsel Mohan Seneviratne and Senior State Counsel Shanil Kularatne.

President's Counsel Wijedasa Rajapakse, President's Counsel Thirantha Walaliyadda, Anil Silva, A.W. Yusoof and Piyal Ratnayake appeared for the defence.

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