Sri Lanka exhumes body of slain Lasantha Wickrematunge

The remains of a newspaper editor who was killed seven years ago has been exhumed as part of a new probe into his death.

A police officer from the criminal investigations department prepares to exhumes the body of Lasantha Wickrematunge at a cemetery in Colombo
A police officer prepares to take part in the exhumation of Wickrematunge's body [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

The remains of a newspaper editor who was killed seven years ago during the last stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war has been exhumed as part of a new investigation into his death, according to officials.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, was killed by unidentified gunmen while driving to work in the capital Colombo in January 2009.

He was an investigative journalist who wrote about government corruption and a sharp critic of the then-government’s alleged human rights violations during the long-running conflict with the island’s Tamil rebels that ended in 2009.

IN-DEPTH: Beyond the beach – Sri Lanka, 5 years on

Sri Lankan journalists struggle to gain press freedom

Wickrematunge’s exhumation took place on Tuesday under a court order after police investigators sought permission for a new examination due to contradictory medical and post mortem examination reports, said Athula S Ranagala, a lawyer representing his family’s interests.

The officer who carried out the autopsy had said the death occurred due to gunshot wounds, while the surgeon who operated on the editor before he died had said the wounds were not from bullets.

Ranagala said police also wanted to identify the type of weapon used to kill Wickrematunge.

A number of journalists were killed, reported as missing after being abducted by government paramilitaries, or beaten up under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration. No one has been convicted.

READ MORE: The scars of Sri Lanka’s civil war

The new administration elected last year has reopened the investigation into Wickrematunge’s killing, which sparked an international outcry and shone a spotlight on allegations of deadly violence directed against the media.

In a pre-written editorial published posthumously, Wickrematunge had said it will be the government that would murder him.

“When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me,” wrote Wickrematunga, who endured years of harassment and intimidation for his work, in the article published in The Guardian and The New Yorker.

An army intelligence officer was arrested in July in connection with the killing.

Frederica Jansz: Sri Lanka’s media crackdown

Source: News Agencies