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May 26, 2017

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S. Lanka judge stabbed after accusing gov't

COLOMBO -- Unidentified attackers stabbed and badly wounded a senior Sri Lankan judge Sunday, police said, amid heightened tension between the government and the judiciary.

Four armed men assaulted Manjula Tilakaratne, a High Court judge and secretary of the independent Judicial Service Commission (JSC), in a suburb of Colombo.

He was taken to hospital after being stabbed at least three times, and his mobile phone was stolen.

The attack came as the local Sunday Times newspaper said the government was locked in a "cold war" with judges over a recent announcement by the JSC that it was being subjected to "threats and intimidation."

Tilakaratne issued a statement last month saying the JSC, which is responsible for the administration of Sri Lanka's justice system, was being targeted for criticism.

"The main objective of those behind the conspiracy ... is to destroy the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law," Tilakaratne said.

The government said on Sunday it "strongly condemned" the attack, adding that President Mahinda Rajapakse had instructed police to bring the perpetrators to justice.

International rights groups have raised concern about rule of law and accountability in Sri Lanka as the country emerges from nearly four decades of ethnic conflict that claimed up to 100,000 lives. Government forces crushed Tamil Tiger rebels and declared an end to decades of fighting in May 2009.

The Sunday Times said the government was at odds with the Supreme Court over decisions that did not favor the ruling party's legislative program.

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