Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Politician jailed for Briton murder

Nasir Shaikh, brother of British tourist Khuram Shaikh, leaves the High Court complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP)
Nasir Shaikh, brother of British tourist Khuram Shaikh, leaves the High Court complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP)

A Sri Lankan court has sentenced a ruling party politician to 20 years in prison for killing a British tourist and raping his Russian girlfriend more than two years ago.

Three others were given the same sentence as Sampath Vidanapathirana by the High Court in Colombo. It found them guilty of murdering Khuram Shaikh and raping his girlfriend at a southern tourist resort on Christmas Day 2011.

The case attracted international attention amid allegations that Vidanapathirana was enjoying impunity because of his connections to the family of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The case had been discussed in the UK's Parliament. British politicians and the victim's family had visited Sri Lanka to personally demand justice.

Mr Shaikh, a 32-year-old Red Cross worker from Rochdale, was in the southern resort of Tangalle.

He had gone on holiday with his girlfriend after spending several months fitting prosthetic limbs in Gaza.

He was stabbed and shot early on Christmas Day morning after he became involved in an altercation at his hotel with a group of local men who were said to have been armed and drunk.

His family in Rochdale have been critical in the past of the time it has taken to prosecute his killers and the case has been taken up by their MP, Simon Danczuk.

Mr Danczuk said: "We're pleased that the Sri Lankan authorities have delivered the right decision and Khuram's killers are now behind bars facing justice.

"They were found guilty on every charge, including gang rape, in what was an absolutely appalling case. Nearly three years ago now, Khuram's father asked me if I would help to get justice for his son and we've fought very hard to get this result.

"The fact that a prominent politician is now behind bars is extremely significant and many Sri Lankan journalists told me this would not happen. I hope it marks a turning point for Sri Lankan justice and sends out a message that no one is above the law."

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