Sri Lankan monk is condemned to death for murder

A gathering of Buddhist monks in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Image caption Theravada Buddhist monks play a prominent public role in Sri Lanka

A Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka has been sentenced to death - the first monk in 50 years to receive such a sentence in the country.

Gomadiye Sarana, 37, was convicted for a murder committed before he was ordained into the clergy.

His fate is unclear, however, as no death sentence has been carried out for more than three decades in Sri Lanka.

Sarana and an accomplice were found guilty of murdering a man 12 years ago by a court in the south of the country.

The crime appeared to be linked to a dispute over an affair the monk had with the murder victim's sister.

Reports say the judge ordered the defendant to remove his robes before he delivered the judgement - probably because he did not want to sentence a monk to death.

But the convicted man refused.

Theravada Buddhist monks play a prominent public role in Sri Lanka.

This is the first time a monk has been given the death sentence since the hanging in 1962 of Talduwe Somarama, a fierce Sinhalese nationalist who assassinated a prime minister.

Other monks have recently been implicated in serious crimes.

Last year a court ordered the arrest of a Buddhist cleric in northern Sri Lanka for allegedly sexually molesting a teenage girl.

In the south a crowd of protesters demanded the arrest of someone they said was a monk for the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl.

And last week police said they detained a monk in possession of heroin.

People are regularly sentenced to death in Sri Lanka but the last judicial execution happened in 1976 so there are hundreds on death row.

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