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Sri Lanka jails ex-Tamil Tiger for 1999 suicide blast

[Reuters, Wednesday, 27 October 2010 16:04 No Comment]

A Sri Lankan court on Wednesday sentenced a Tamil Tiger separatist to 30 years’ hard labour for helping carry out a 1999 suicide bombing that killed 26 people and cost the then-president her eye.

Sri Lanka’s government defeated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, ending a civil war that became one of Asia’s longest-running at nearly 30 years.

The LTTE’s hallmark was suicide bombings that killed government leaders, and the 1999 attack almost added President Chandrika Kumaratunga to the casualty list that included a previous Sri Lankan head of state and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Sathyawale Ilangeshwaran had pleaded guilty to transporting the explosives and helping the female suicide bomber who blew herself up in the Dec. 18, 1999, attack at an election rally.

"Even though the LTTE is a terrorist organisation, its members are Sri Lankans and they fall under the law of the land and they can not kill or harm anybody," Judge W.T.M.P.B Waravewa told the court while handing down the sentence.

Sri Lanka’s rights record has been battered by years of extra-judicial killings and personal score-settling carried out against the backdrop of the LTTE conflict and two other homegrown insurgencies, the first of which started in 1971.

LTTE sympathisers and rights groups still accuse the government of operating outside the law to handle former separatists.

The government says it follows the laws of the country when dealing with members of the LTTE, which was on more than 30 nations’ terrorism lists. Powerful wartime emergency laws that allow indefinite detention without charge remain in force.

The military on Wednesday said it is dismantling permanent military checkpoints in the capital Colombo due to the eased security situation. It will replace them with remote surveillance and spot checks, a military spokesman said.

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