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June 29, 2017

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Sri Lanka judges boycott courts over attack

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka--Sri Lanka's judges and lawyers boycotted courts on Monday to protest the assault of an outspoken judge, and hundreds of lawyers staged a demonstration demanding a thorough investigation into the attack.

About 500 lawyers and staff wearing black headbands marched in front of Colombo's court complex. They carried a coffin, saying the weekend attack on Judge Manjula Tilakaratne symbolizes the death of independent judiciary.

They held placards reading: "Stand up to the protect judiciary. Protect lives of judges. Arrest those who attacked a judge."

Tilakaratne, the secretary of the Judicial Service Commission that handles appointment and transfer of judges, was assaulted by four men on Sunday as he was in his car reading a newspaper after dropping off his son at school. He sustained injuries to his face and right hand. Police said an investigation is under way.

Protesters said Tilakarartne had irked the government with a statement two weeks ago complaining of outside influences on the commission's decisions.

A protesting lawyer J.C. Weliamuna said the attack was "unprecedented" and blamed the government for the attack.

"This attack symbolizes the death of Sri Lanka's independent judiciary. It's not just an attack on one judge, it has dealt severe blow to the whole judiciary. The government should take the responsibility for this attack," said another lawyer Gunaratne Wanninayake.

He demanded police to conduct an impartial inquiry and arrest the "real suspects."

District judges stayed away from work Monday, crippling court activities while lawyers also boycotted courts across the country, said lawyer Nuwan Bopage.

In July, lawyers accused a government minister of threatening a judge who he disagreed with, and the politician's supporters were accused of stoning the court complex.

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