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Colombo: A Sri Lankan court on Wednesday ordered the arrest of police officers involved in the death of a protester after the police opened fire at unarmed anti-government protestors demonstrating against the fuel price hike in southwestern region of Rambukkana.

A 41-year-old father of two was killed and 13 others were injured on April 19 when police opened fire on residents of Rambukkana – some 90 kilometers northeast of Colombo, who were protesting against the fuel price hike. It was the first death during the ongoing protests over the worst-ever economic crisis in the country’s history. Fifteen police personnel also sustained injuries.

Magistrate Vasana Navaratne in the southwestern town of Kegalle ordered the arrest of the police hierarchy who had ordered the firing.

The angry residents had lined up for refuelling at a local fuel station and were protesting over the non-availability of fuel. When the fuel did arrive many hours later, the protesters were accused of blocking the main railway line and attempting to set afire a bowser which carried fuel.

The police had then used tear gas and opened fire at the protesters.

Wednesday’s order from the magistrate came after the deceased’s post-mortem report was submitted in the court which said the victim had died of gunshot injuries.

At least three senior local police officers were transferred out of the district following the incident where the police was accused of tampering with evidence.

Following the shooting, a curfew was imposed in the area for several days with troops being deployed to maintain peace leading to the victim’s funeral.

Mass anti-government protests demanding the resignation of the entire Rajapaksa family have been going on for more than two weeks.

Debt-ridden Sri Lanka is grappling with an unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

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