Sri Lankan court acquits five men in Tamil MP murder trial

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Sri Lankan political and anti-war activists carry the coffin of Tamil legislator Nadarajah Raviraj during a protest march held in Colombo against his assassination, 13 November 2006Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The murder of Nadarajah Raviraj sparked protests and international condemnation

A court in Sri Lanka has acquitted five men accused of involvement in the murder in 2006 of a prominent Tamil member of parliament.

Nadarajah Raviraj was shot dead in his car in the capital, Colombo, during Sri Lanka's bitter civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels.

Raviraj was an advocate of self-rule for the minority Tamils and his death sparked international condemnation.

The men who have been cleared include three Sri Lankan navy personnel.

In a highly unusual move, the jury's verdict was delivered at midnight following a unanimous decision in the month-long trial.

Earlier this year, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who has previously ruled out allowing any political leader to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes, said he was concerned that naval and military commanders had been summoned before the courts.

Raviraj's death was seen as a setback for moderates in Sri Lanka and led to thousands of people marching in Colombo in protest at the murder.

Raviraj, who was fluent in Tamil, Sinhala and English, acted as a bridge between communities and spoke out against extreme nationalists.

He was shot as he left his house in Colombo for work.

Sri Lanka's army defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 after 26 years of civil war.

The death toll as a result of the conflict is estimated to be more than 70,000.

The government has since insisted that it is on the path of reconciliation and rebuilding Sri Lanka's north.