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Sri Lanka accords State funeral to Pakistan lynching victim, mourners demand justice

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris meets Pakistan High Commissioner to Colombo, Tanvir Ahmad over compensation for Priyantha Kumara (Photo courtesy: MOFA, Sri Lanka)

The remains of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara, who had been lynched and burnt by a frenzied mob over allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan last week, were buried in his native village with State honours.

Kumara's remains were led by the police in a procession that was attended by hundreds of people including friends and family. He was buried in Ganemulla, about 25 km from Sri Lanka's capital Colombo.

The mourners demanded justice for Kumara from both Pakistani and Sri Lankan governments. They expect Pakistan to punish the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

Clergy from both Buddhist and Christian denominations attended the burial.

The 49-year-old Kumara was beaten to death and his body burned by a mob of factory workers who alleged that the Sri Lankan national had committed blasphemy by peeling off a poster with Islamic verses from a factory wall. Blasphemy is considered a highly sacriligeous crime in Pakistan. The mob chanted religious slogans as they assaulted Kumara.

The brutal murder, committed last Friday, is believed to have been done by supporters of the radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which had recently reached a peace accord with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Malik Adnan, one of the co-workers with Kumara, had tried to save him from the mob. Adnan told the media that Kumara was not aware of the contents of the poster. He was awarded Pakistan's highest bravery award from Imran Khan for trying to shield Kumara from the mob.

The topmost Sri Lankan leadership has taken up Kumara's case with Pakistan. It is, however, walking a tightrope in its condemnation of the incident as the two countries enjoy good relations.

Pakistan has arrested over 130 people related to the incident, including around two dozen prime suspects. Reportedly, the country's track record of convicting people involved in cases of blasphemy has been abysmal.