Section of agitating death row prisoners resume hunger strike: Authorities

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Colombo, Jun 27 (PTI) A section of agitating death row prisoners, who ended their hunger strike following official assurances of representation for commutation of their sentences, have resumed their protest, authorities said on Sunday.

Over 175 prisoners on death row from the Main Welikada Prison here and the Mahara Prison in north Colombo started a hunger strike on Thursday, demanding that either they be hanged or their sentences be commuted to life terms.

Out of the agitating inmates, a section of prisoners from the Welikada prison ended their protest on Saturday after assurances that the issue is being addressed by the authorities.

However, they have resumed their protest, Prison spokesman Chandana Ekanayake said.

'They got down from the prison roof and agreed to end their action when it was conveyed to them that the issue is being addressed by authorities', Ekanayake said, adding that the prisoners are back on the roof.

Ekanayake on Saturday said the secretary to the State Ministry of Prisons visited the protesters and informed them on the official interventions on their behalf.

The hunger strike was triggered by the decision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to grant a presidential pardon to a ruling SLPP politician who had been condemned to capital punishment after a political killing in 2011.

Silva's pardon caused much controversy, with the lawyers' body - Bar Association of Sri Lanka - questioning if the proper legal discourse had been followed.

Silva was set free from Welikada Prison on Thursday.

The former parliamentarian and 12 others were accused of 17 charges, including the murder of his political rival and another lawmaker Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and four others in 2011. A special three-member panel of High Court judges acquitted seven suspects and sentenced five, including Silva, to death in 2016.

Silva was released in addition to 93 prisoners, including 16 LTTE terror suspects, who were also pardoned by the president.

The UN Human Rights body and the US Ambassador in Colombo were critical of Silva's pardoning as an instance of questionable nature of the rule of law.

Sri Lanka supported the UN moratorium on death penalty. The country has not hanged anyone since 1976. Death sentences are commuted to life terms. PTI CORR RS RS

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