COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – Around 175 death row inmates in Sri Lanka continued their hunger strike for a second day on Saturday, demanding that their sentences be commuted to life in prison after the country’s president pardoned a former lawmaker who had been convicted of an election-related murder.
Prison spokesman Chandana Ekanayake said senior prison ministry officials had in-person discussions with the prisoner. inmates on strike in two prisons, one inside the capital Colombo and one outside.
“Although they are informed of the action taken on their demands, they (the prisoners) are continuing their hunger strike and have not taken any food tonight either,” Ekanayake said in a statement.
The surprise release of former lawmaker Duminda Silva on Thursday drew much criticism, including from the UN human rights office and the US ambassador to Sri Lanka. He is widely regarded as a favorite of the ruling Rajapaksa family in Sri Lanka and was serving a death sentence for the murder of a rival MP from his own party in an election-related attack some 10 years ago.
Sri Lanka has not hanged a prisoner since 1976, although courts regularly hand down death sentences.