Central & South Asia

Sri Lanka jails politician for tourist murder

Sampath Vidanapathirana given 20-year sentence for killing British man and raping his Russian girlfriend in 2011.

Last updated: 18 Jul 2014 09:36
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Charges were filed against Vidanapaitharana and five other suspects [AFP]

A Sri Lankan court has sentenced a former member of the country's ruling political party to 20 years in prison for killing a British tourist and raping his Russian girlfriend more than two years ago.

Three others were given the same sentence as Sampath Vidanapathirana by the High Court in Colombo on Friday, the AP news agency reported.

It found them guilty of murdering Khuram Sheikh and raping his girlfriend at a southern tourist resort on Christmas Day, 2011.

Shaikh, a 32-year-old Red Cross worker based in Gaza, was shot and stabbed to death on Dec. 25, 2011, at a hotel while on holiday. His fiance was beaten unconscious before being sexually assaulted, according to hospital and police records.

The case attracted international attention amid allegations that Vidanapathirana was enjoying impunity because of his connections to the family of the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

British politicians and the victim's family had visited Sri Lanka to demand justice.

Charges were filed against Vidanapaitharana and five other suspects amid increasing international scrutiny and pressure over the country's human rights record. 

The court discharged two of the accused on Friday.

The court sentenced Vidanapathirana, a ruling party supporter and head of the council in Tangalle town, where the two were staying, to "rigorous imprisonment" for 20 years.

Shaikh's brother Nasser Shaikh, who was in court, said: "While 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."

Friction between Sri Lanka and Britain over the murder case had grown before a summit of the Commonwealth group of countries in Colombo last November.

Vidanapathirana had been granted bail in 2012 and allowed to remain in his town council position. But he was indicted soon after the Commonwealth meeting and then arrested after allegations he had attempted to intimidate witnesses.

The ruling party later expelled him.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
About 500,000 participated around the globe in the Peoples Climate March, and Al Jazeera spoke to some in New York.
Separatist movements in Spain, Belgium and Italy may face headwinds following Scotland's decision to stay in the UK.
A fishing trawler carrying 500 migrants across the Mediterranean was rammed by another boat, causing hundreds to drown.
Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party - with roots in the neo-Nazi movement - recently won 12.9 percent of the vote.
Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters in previous Gaza war is fighting to bring 100 wounded kids to Canada.