COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has overturned a presidential pardon for a former lawmaker convicted of murdering his political rival and ordered him to serve life in prison.
The court found that former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not follow the correct procedures when he granted a pardon to Duminda Silva, a close associate, who was found guilty of killing a political rival and three others in a public shootout.
Silva, a former member of parliament, was convicted for his involvement in a deadly gunfight in the capital Colombo in 2011, which resulted in the deaths of former lawmaker Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and three of his supporters.
Despite being released from prison, Silva was appointed as a top government official in charge of housing, which sparked international outrage.
Relatives of the victims challenged Silva’s pardon in court, and he was instructed to return to prison pending a verdict. However, instead of complying, he remained at a privately run hospital, citing illness.
Rajapaksa, whose family has wielded significant political power in Sri Lanka, was ousted from office in the midst of the country’s unprecedented economic crisis in 2022.
The former leader has faced criticism for issuing pardons, including one in 2020 for an army sergeant who had been sentenced to death for killing Tamil civilians, including four children, during the country’s lengthy civil war.