Minister Kadirgamar assassination: Glimmer of hope for justice | Sunday Observer

Minister Kadirgamar assassination: Glimmer of hope for justice

26 January, 2020

The trial and the conviction of an ex- LTTE member in Germany in connection with the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s assassination, nearly 15 years after his death, has given a glimmer of hope for those who seek justice for the cold-blooded murder back in Sri Lanka.

It will, however, take a long time before the heartache of many a Sri Lankan and people all over the world who were touched by his charisma and affection, is put to rest.

The German court ruling marks the first time the assassination was officially pinned on the terror outfit given that the case filed in the High Court in Sri Lanka cannot be proceeded after the last remaining suspect who was in remand custody died in June last year. The Prison authorities said the 62-year-old suspect, Muttiah Sahadevan alias Deva died in hospital due to a prolonged kidney disease.

Earlier, in November 2018, the second suspect Isithor Arokyanathan alias Babu, who was initially reported to have transported the weapon used to murder Kadirgamar, in a box in a three wheeler to the house occupied by the sniper was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Thus, if the Sri Lankan case will be re-opened after the new development in Germany is yet to be known.

The Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart convicted the LTTE suspect on two counts, for being a member of a foreign terrorist organization and aiding and abetting a murder, clamping on him a six years and 10 months prison term.

The suspect who travelled to Germany in February 2012 had applied for asylum on March 6 the same year. The court extracts revealed that he was born and raised in Sri Lanka and he had been a member of the LTTE since August 30, 2002.

Since he was not granted refugee status, the convict brought an action before the Freiburg Administrative court which banned his deportation on July 5, 2017. The investigation into his past and subsequent criminal proceedings were based on a presentation he has made to the Administrative Court to secure refugee status, court documents showed.

The Court said in its ruling that the allegations made by the General Prosecutor’s office against the defendant were fully confirmed due to defendant’s presentation (confession).

His presentation to the Administrative Court revealed that after two training sessions with the LTTE, he became a member of the military secret service of the LTTE and was integrated into its hierarchical structure and the chain of command. Upon orders from his superiors, he collected information relevant to attacks on opponents and traitors to the LTTE in Colombo.

In July 2003, he was asked to provide information on security arrangements, lifestyle and habits of the then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, whom the LTTE wanted killed.

The Court said the defendant was aware that the LTTE wanted to kill former Minister Kadirgamar because he was a Tamil who was part of the then government and wanted to outlaw and fight the Organisation. He was finally shot dead on August 12, 2005 at his residence in Colombo by at least one ‘LTTE sniper’ posted in a neighbouring house. “The information provided by the accused until May 2005, especially, his reference to the possibility of firearms being used from a neighboring building, made a substantial contribution to this insidious murder,” the court observed. In the final phase of the war, the defendant had been tasked with evacuating senior LTTE leaders and injured members to prevent their arrest, and later help them flee the country. On May 18, 2009, the LTTE was militarily crushed by the security forces.

The punishment has been lenient on the basis the incident occurred a long time ago and a guilty verdict would not have been possible without information from the defendant.

However, the judge ruled a guilty verdict since the incident involved actions ‘extremely long lasting’ and ‘extremely weighty’.

The former LTTE member was arrested in Germany in January 2019. In a total of 15 main hearings, the court heard 13 witness accounts and three expert accounts. After the assassination of former Foreign Minister Kadirgamar in August 2005, the international backlash was so overwhelming that the LTTE denied any hand in the heinous crime although the Police and the then government accused the terror group of the cold blooded murder.

The then IGP Chandra Fernando said the two suspects taken into custody shortly after his tragic death, admitted travelling to an LTTE military camp in Kilinochchi to get instructions to carry out the plan.

The BBC which reported on the assassination said, “The slain minister, who successfully campaigned to impose an international ban on Tigers, was believed to be the number one target of the LTTE at the time of the attack. However, a court conviction on the killing had taken nearly 15 years. The much loved and internationally honoured statesman was killed by an LTTE sniper at his residence on August 12, 2005 as he was climbing out of the swimming pool after a late night swim which was his usual routine to end an exhaustive day.

At the time he was the Foreign Minister of the then Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga government. His wife Sugandhi Kadirgamar had witnessed him collapse near the pool shortly after the shots. Out of five shots, two had pierced his heart and the stomach. Three had hit a nearby wall.

A former senior diplomat said,” The EU designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist oganisation following the assassination and it struck one of the biggest blows to the LTTE fund raising within the EU and elsewhere.

The LTTE still remains a proscribed organization to date. “By the standards of convictions in terrorism, this is a significant penalty, earlier the LTTE suspects convicted of money laundering were imposed suspended sentences,” the retired diplomat said. The LTTE convict as well as the Federal prosecutor can appeal against the ruling of the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart.

The high profile assassination case was handled by Deputy Solicitor General Kapila Waidyaratne earlier and it was later represented by Deputy Solicitor General Azard Navavi at the Attorney General’s Department. Following investigations by the CID, police, military intelligence and other agencies, the case was first taken up for hearing in a court in Sri Lanka in October 2009.

Six suspects were indicted in the Lankan case, including LTTE leaders V. Prabhakaran and Pottuamman. Four suspects, including Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman have died and the sixth suspect, Isithor Arokyanathan (Babu), a threewheeler driver, was acquitted from the case on November 3, 2018. The sniper who shot the former Foreign Minister Kadirgamar was never traced or arrested.