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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July, 2005, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Death sentence for judge killers
Funeral of judge Sarath Ambepitiya
The assassination rocked the judiciary and the government
Five men have been sentenced to death in Sri Lanka for killing a high-profile judge in November last year.

Judge Sarath Ambepitiya, who was renowned for his tough sentences on underworld figures, was shot dead as he arrived home from court.

The five men convicted at the Colombo High Court were said to be members of a gang linked to the drugs trade.

The government set up a special security unit to protect the judiciary after the killing.

Police chief Chandra Fernando personally took over the investigation.

Gang leader

The assassination on 19 November prompted President Chandrika Kumaratunga to reaffirm her country's commitment to capital punishment, saying it applied for murder, rape and drug trafficking.

Judge's wife at scene of the shooting in Colombo
The judge's wife mourns at the scene of the shooting

No executions have been carried out for 28 years in Sri Lanka, although a move to commute all death sentences to life in prison was revoked in January 2001.

The five men sentenced to death can take their case to the Court of Appeal and if that fails, go to the Supreme Court and, finally, ask for clemency from the president.

The man said to be the gang's leader, Potta Nauffer, was among those convicted.

Judge Ambepitiya's bodyguard also died in the assassination in Colombo.

The attack was the first time the judiciary had been targeted in a country where political figures have frequently come under fire.

Judge Ambepitiya had just given a life sentence to a woman drug trafficker when he was killed.

In 2002, the judge also sentenced the leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, Velupillai Prabhakaran, to 200 years in jail in absentia over a 1996 bomb attack.

The truck bombing of the Central Bank in Colombo killed 91 people.



SEE ALSO:
Colombo gets tough after killing
20 Nov 04 |  South Asia
Gunman kills top Sri Lankan judge
19 Nov 04 |  South Asia
Four acquitted of Tamil murders
27 May 05 |  South Asia


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