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Sri Lanka marks decade since journalist murder amid justice calls

AFP  |  Colombo 

Sri Lankan journalists Tuesday paid tribute to anti-establishment Wickrematunge 10 years after his murder by a suspected government death squad that came to symbolise a deadly decade-long crackdown on the country's media.

Just days before he was due to give evidence against the brother of the country's then strongman leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, two assailants on motorcycles blocked the car of the 50-year-old of newspaper before smashing the windows and stabbing him in the head.

The assassination is one of many unresolved killings of journalists carried out during Rajapaksa's decade in power, which also saw a 37-year conflict with Tamil separatists brought to a brutal conclusion.

Friends, family and colleagues of Wickrematunge placed flowers and candles on his grave at the

White cards with Wickrematunge's name and those of 18 other journalists were also put among the golden trumpet flowers and white frangipani blooms.

A message from -- the dead journalist's brother who lives in -- was read out, saying the family was also grieving for other journalists killed by unidentified assassins.

It said many journalists from the minority Tamil community were killed "during the darkest period in our nation's history" -- the four-decade civil war, ended by government forces when they crushed the rebel in 2009.

The murdered Wickrematunge was a of that military campaign, which allegedly massacred 40,000 ethnic Tamils.

"Reconciliation and closure will not be possible without prosecution," his brother said.

Before his death Wickrematunge had revealed corruption in a multi-million dollar purchase of second-hand MiG planes from implicating then defence secretary, -- the brother of who was

The was killed days before he was due to give evidence.

After Rajapaksa lost a 2015 election, a breakthrough in the Wickrematunge case saw investigators tell a that spies were responsible for his killing.

A former accused Gotabhaya of running a secret unit used to target journalists and dissidents during his brother's presidency, during which rights activists say dozens of journalists and were killed.

Gotabhaya has denied any link to the killings. He remains under investigation for corruption related to the MiG deal.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 08 2019. 15:45 IST