Sacked Sri Lanka chief justice says her life in danger

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka's sacked chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake said Tuesday she feared for her life and was forced to quit her official residence because of the threat of violence.

Speaking to reporters from her car as she drove away from the Colombo residence, Bandaranayake told reporters she also feared for the safety of her husband and son.

"My life is in danger. The lives of all three of us are in danger," she said.

"I wasn't even allowed to say my goodbyes to the people whom I worked with at the Supreme Court for over 16 years."

Bandaranayake, the first woman to hold the country's highest judicial position, was sacked by President Mahinda Rajapakse on Sunday two days after parliament voted to impeach her.

Despite a chorus of international criticism and threats of a legal challenge, Rajapakse swiftly filled the vacancy Tuesday by appointing the government's senior legal adviser Mohan Peiris as Bandaranayake's successor.

In a separate statement to reporters, Bandaranayake said she was still the lawful chief justice because superior courts have already held that her impeachment was unconstitutional and illegal.

"I still am the duly appointed legitimate Chief Justice," she said adding that she was leaving her official residence only because she feared violence. She said she was also prevented from going to courts on Tuesday following threats.

"Since it now appears that there might be violence if I remain in my official residence or my chambers, I am compelled to move out... particularly because violence is directed at innocent people including judges," she said.

Ruling party supporters had beaten up lawyers and demonstrators who backed Bandaranayake last week in the wake of court rulings against a parliamentary select committee report which found her guilty of misconduct.

Lawmakers found Bandaranayake guilty of tampering with a case involving a company from which her sister bought an apartment, of failing to declare dormant bank accounts, and of staying in office while her husband faced a bribery charge.

She has said the charges were politically motivated and she was denied a fair trial.

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