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Last updated: 20 January, 2006 - Published 16:25 GMT
 
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Ratwatte acquitted on murder case
 
Anuruddha Ratwatte addresing media after the verdict (photo Elmo Fernando)
Ratwattes and their bodyguards were accused of killing opponents
The High Court in Sri Lanka has acquitted a former deputy defense minister on charges of murder ten Muslim youths.

Anuruddha Ratwatte, ad hoc defense minister under President Chandrika Kumaratunga, and his two sons were acquitted of all charges at the Udathalawinna murder trial.

But five security force personnel, former security guards of minister Ratwatte, were sentenced to death on Friday.

Death sentence

Lieutenant Ranjith Dharmasiri Wijeratne, Sunil de Silva, Kamal Wijeratne, Anura Kumara and Buddhi Dissanayake were also found guilty of five charges of conspiring to murder.

They were sentenced to 100 years of vigorous imprisonment in addition to the death sentence.

Anuruddha Ratwatte (photo Elmo Fernando)
Ratwatte accused opponents of conspiring to destroy his political life

Announcing the unanimous decision presiding Judge Deepali Wijesundara said eyewitness accounts by Mohammed Malik, a survivor, failed to convince the courts that Lohan and Chanuka Ratwatte were involved in the shooting incident.

The Colombo High Court acquitted eight accused including five other Sri Lanka Army soldiers.

"Conspiracy"

Speaking to journalists after the verdict, the former minister accused his political opponents of “conspiring” to destroy his political career.

The minister, uncle of former President Kumaratunga, his sons and ten guards were accused of shooting dead ten Muslim youths and injuring four others in Udathalawinna, a suburb of Kandy, during the December 2001 parliamentary elections.

All those on trial had denied killing ten supporters of the opposition Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC).

The convicted soldiers have the right to appeal to Sri Lanka's Supreme Court.

 
 
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