Sri Lankan court gives death sentence to ex-lawmaker

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA: A Sri Lankan court on Thursday sentenced a former lawmaker and four suspected accomplices to death over the killing of a rival politician in an election-related attack five years ago.

Duminda Silva and the four others were charged with shooting to death Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and three of his supporters.

The case was widely followed because Silva was seen a favorite of the country's former strongman, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Silva was believed to be protected by Rajapaksa and was flown out of the country soon after the killing, apparently for treatment of injuries he received in the fracas.

His sentence is also seen a sign of a return of the independence of the judiciary, which was tightly controlled by Rajapaksa before his election defeat last year.

Lawyers for the defendants said that they will appeal the sentences.

Silva and the others are unlikely to be executed, and instead serve lengthy prison terms because Sri Lanka has had a moratorium on carrying out death sentences since 1976.