pect freed by appeal court
A SRI LANKAN Court of Appeal has ordered the release of a man wanted
for murder in Hong Kong, ruling that an extradition agreement was no
longer valid after the handover.
The court ordered the release of Attanayake Wasala Panditha
Mudiyanselage Ajith Dangamuwa, the prime suspect in a 1995 murder of
an Indian tourist in Chungking Mansions, Tsim Sha Tsui.
A spokesman for the Security Bureau said the Hong Kong government
respected the decision, but would pursue the matter.
"We will not give up our pursuit of prosecution against Dangamuwa,"
the spokesman said. "Efforts to bring him to justice will not be
Sri Lankan Justices J de Silva and Amir Ismail overturned a previous
high court ruling that Dangamuwa could be sent back to Hong Kong. They
ruled that a Commonwealth extradition agreement with Britain applied
to Hong Kong before the handover, but not after.
"Accordingly, I hold that the request for extradition is
frustrated," Mr Justice de Silva ruled.
With the extradition request denied, there was no longer any valid
reason for the authorities to keep Dangamuwa in jail, the judge said.
Dangamuwa, 54, is accused of killing Sushila Pandey, a 37-year-old
Indian tourist who came to Hong Kong in November 1994.
Pandey was strangled to death on 16 February 1995, according to a Hong
Kong coroner's report. She was two months pregnant.
The woman was found dead in a bed inside a room on the eighth floor of
Block A in Chungking Mansions. A police press release issued shortly
after the murder said the person in charge of the guest house received
a call from the room's tenant.
The caller apparently said something had happened in the room. Police
later said the room was rented by Dangamuwa. He and the victim had
reportedly been living together. Robbery was ruled out as the room had
not been ransacked.
Hong Kong asked the Sri Lankan government to extradite Dangamuwa on 12
June 1996 and legal proceedings were begun but did not conclude until
three days before the handover.
The Sri Lankan High Court ruled that Dangamuwa could be extradited,
but he appealed.
The Sri Lankan government argued that the Sino-British Joint
Declaration maintained the extradition agreement. Mr Justice de Silva
"The joint declaration by the two countries does not in any way make
the operation of the international agreements mandatory," he said.
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