COLOMBO: A court on Wednesday ordered the arrest of Sri Lanka’s top military officer in connection with the abduction and murder of 11 people during the island’s civil war.

Colombo Fort magistrate Lanka Jayaratne directed police to detain Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, Chief of the Defence Staff, for allegedly helping the main person accused in the killings escape prosecution.

Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, a navy intelligence officer, was accused of leading a hit squad that kidnapped 11 young men between 2008 and 2009 during the final stages of the war. They are believed to have been murdered while being illegally held by the navy. Their bodies were never found. Hettiarachchi was arrested earlier this month in Colombo after a months-long manhunt that saw an alert issued worldwide.

“There is evidence against Admiral Wijegu­naratne’s role in allowing the accused to evade arrest,” Sri Lanka’s Crim­inal Investigations Dep­ar­tment told the magistrate.

D.K.P. Dissanayake, at the time a spokesman for the navy, is also suspected of involvement. He was arrested last year and is currently on bail.

Police have told the court that Hettiarachchi was also wanted in connection with the 2006 murder of Tamil lawmaker Nadarajah Raviraj.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2018

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