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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May, 2005, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Child-abuser monk commits suicide
Monks in Sri Lanka
Monks play a highly influential role in Sri Lankan life
A Sri Lankan Buddhist monk has died from poison he drank after he was sentenced for raping a girl aged 13.

Bellana Pannaloka Thero, of the Sri Vimalarama temple in Nugegoda, near Colombo, drank insecticide from his pocket shortly after sentencing.

The monk was jailed for 20 years for raping the girl in 2001, and had been in critical condition in hospital.

Monks play a highly influential role in Sri Lanka, whose 19m population is about 70% Buddhist.

Bellana Panniyaloka was one of the first Buddhist clergyman to be convicted of child abuse in Sri Lanka.

The court found him guilty on Monday of grave sexual abuse.

It said he had abused the girl when she was attending his classes at the local temple, and had threatened to expel her if she reported the abuse.

Colombo High Court judge Rohini Perera called the monk's offence shocking and disgraceful and imposed the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The monk was also fined 10,000 rupees ($100).

Minutes later Panniyaloka drank from a bottle hidden in his robes. He died on Tuesday in intensive care in hospital.

Doctors say he consumed a large amount of insecticide.

Convictions of monks for sexual abuse are extremely rare in Sri Lanka, although in recent years reports of child abuse by Buddhist priests have risen.

In one earlier case a monk was sentenced to 15 years for abusing a boy.

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