A Sri Lankan court has acquitted five naval intelligence officers accused of killing an outspoken Tamil lawmaker, who advocated greater self-rule for the minority community, 10 years ago during the civil war.
The case had been heard before a special jury for the first time in history and it is the first-ever occasion that a verdict was given after midnight.
Nadaraja Raviraj, who represented the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) from the northern Jaffna district, was shot dead outside his home in his car in Colombo in November, 2006. The police's Crime Investigations Department had found the vehicle and the weapons allegedly used for the murder.
Raviraj was an advocate for greater self-rule for minority Tamils and had explained the Tamil perspective of the conflict in Sinhala, the language of the majority. He was shot dead during the country's three-decade-long civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels, which ended in 2009.
The suspects held were all Naval intelligence personnel who were acquitted and released after they were found not guilty by a special jury. The decision was reached after midnight following a trial which lasted over a month.
One of the suspects had died during the trial, according to reports. The jury has decided that the accused cannot be convicted based only on the fact that they were identified by several witnesses in the case.
The accused were charged on five counts under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and PenalCode. The High Court tried three of the suspects in absentia as they were absconding since the beginning of the investigations.
Another suspect former Police Constable Manamperige Sanjaya Preethi Viraj, had turned state witness in the case. He was released Thursday after in the remand custody for almost 20 months.