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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 20:17 GMT
Sri Lankan opposition MP jailed
SB Dissanayake
SB Dissanayake was handcuffed after the ruling
Sri Lanka's supreme court has jailed a leading opposition politician for making defamatory comments about the court's judges.

SB Dissanayake, an MP in the United National Party (UNP), was given a two-year prison sentence by the court.

UNP politicians staged vociferous protests in parliament, denouncing the verdict as an act of political revenge.

Mr Dissanayake was a close supporter of President Chandrika Kumaratunga - the two fell out three years ago.

He was a minister in the government of the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe at the time he made his comments criticising the supreme court judges.

'Leniency'

Court officials said Mr Dissanayake was jailed for saying that the court made flawed rulings, the Reuters news agency reports.

According to the court officials, Chief Justice Sarath N Silva said: "The court cannot be lenient on something of this nature committed by a top cabinet minister," Reuters reports.

Mr Dissanayake was taken to prison in handcuffs after the ruling.

There is no right to appeal against the court's verdict.

Mr Dissanayake joined Mr Wickramasinghe's UNP party in 2001 when it was in opposition.

His defection triggered elections in which the UNP triumphed. He became agriculture minister.

After three years in power, the UNP lost parliamentary elections this April.

UNP legislator Rajitha Senaratne said in parliament that the verdict "reflects how the government is seeking political revenge", the AFP news agency reports.

Mr Senaratne was protected in making his comments by parliamentary privilege.




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