Sri Lankan politician jailed for 20 years for murder and rape

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 11:22pm


A Sri Lankan ruling party politician and three accomplices were sentenced yesterday to 20 years in jail for murdering a British holidaymaker on Christmas Eve and raping his Russian partner.

The Colombo High Court said town council chief Sampath Vidanapathirana was guilty of killing Khuram Shaikh, 32, an International Red Cross aid worker who had tried to stop a brawl at a southern beach resort on December 24, 2011.

After 33 days of hearing evidence, judge Rohini Walgama found Vidanapathirana, a member of President Mahinda Rajapakse's Freedom Alliance, and three others guilty on 16 counts, including culpable homicide, attempted murder and rape.

The four men were ordered to pay a total of 800,000 rupees (HK$47,575) as compensation to the Russian woman, who cannot be named, as well as fines of 20,000 rupees each. Two other defendants were discharged due to insufficient evidence.

All six were indicted in December after repeated allegations that there was an unnecessary delay in bringing the case to court, leading to suspicions they were being shielded by their political connections. Shaikh's brother Nasser praised the "bravery and defiance" of Sri Lankan witnesses who gave evidence despite threats and intimidation.

"Whilst our family and friends find it difficult to come to terms with the tragic loss, I hope today can bring some comfort to everyone involved that we achieved the justice we set out for," Nasser said in a statement.

He fought back tears inside the court room and outside as he spoke to reporters while the accused appeared smiling and chatting with police and guards.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron had cited the murder of Shaikh, who was beaten then shot in the head, as an example of Colombo's failure to deliver justice. Shaikh was holidaying in Sri Lanka during a break from his job in the Palestinian territory of Gaza where he was fitting prosthetic limbs.

Hotel boss Tharanga Peiris told the court earlier this year that she tried to stop him going to the aid of another hotel guest who was being beaten by the politician and his gang.

Another hotel guest said that the attackers had "behaved like animals" and went on a rampage smashing plates, glasses, car windows and toppling a three-wheeled taxi parked outside.