Sri Lanka widens probe into missing cartoonist

COLOMBO • Sri Lankan police have detained 11 people, most of them soldiers or former soldiers, in a widening probe into the disappearance of a cartoonist that has become a test case of the new government's resolve to address human rights abuses.

Mr Prageeth Eknaligoda, a fierce critic of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, went missing near Colombo more than five years ago, triggering allegations from his wife and rights activists that he had been abducted by government agents.

At the time of his disappearance in January 2010, Mr Eknaligoda was working on a story on the alleged use of cluster bombs by Sri Lanka's military in the final months of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, his colleagues said. The military has denied any such use.

New President Maithripala Sirisena has vowed to prosecute members of the previous administration for abuse of power, and the first arrests in the high-profile case were made in August, a police official said.

Army spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera said that four of the detained men were serving soldiers, while the rest were former soldiers and informers employed by the military.

"It has been disclosed during the investigations these 11 people had taken Prageeth to a camp. Last week, they were taken to this camp and questioned," police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'Sri Lanka widens probe into missing cartoonist'. Print Edition | Subscribe