Sri Lanka’s most senior military official in court over civil-war abductions

the guardian

Sri Lanka’s most senior military official has been jailed as a court investigates allegations he helped cover up the disappearance of 11 people during the final months of the country’s three-decade civil war. Ravindra Wijegunaratne, the chief of defence staff, avoided an arrest warrant for weeks before police detained him on Wednesday, after he was accused of trying to abduct a key witness in the case at the weekend.

He is the highest-ranking military official ever to face charges stemming from crimes allegedly committed during the country 26-year war against Tamil separatists. The court in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, heard Wijegunaratne assisted the escape of a naval intelligence officer who is accused of abducting and killing 11 men during the last days of the civil war in 2009. Investigators say the accused kidnapper, Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, intended to hold the mostly Tamil men from wealthy families for ransom. Their bodies have never been found.Wijegunaratne, who is not implicated in the disappearances, is alleged to have assisted Hettiarachchi to flee to Malaysia to avoid arrest. Hettiarachchi returned to Sri Lanka in August and has been arrested.(theguardian)…[+]