Sri Lanka's outgoing president pardons Swedish teen's killer

Yvonne Jonsson was killed in 2005 while on holiday

FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena speaks during a meeting with Foreign Correspondents Association at his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

Sri Lanka's outgoing president pardoned a death-row prisoner who murdered a Swedish teenager, officials said on Sunday, but the move sparked national outrage.

Jude Jayamaha, from a wealthy, high-profile family, walked out of Welikada prison on Saturday after the highly unusual pardon granted by President Maithripala Sirisena.

Mr Sirisena, who is stepping down after Saturday's presidential election, said last month that he was considering a request to pardon Jayamaha.

Victim Yvonne Jonsson, who was on holiday in Sri Lanka, was beaten to death at a high-rise apartment in Colombo in 2005 after arguing with Jayamaha. The court heard that  her skull was fractured into 64 pieces.

Jayamaha was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison. He appealed to a higher court, which rejected his plea and sentenced him to death, a judgment reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in 2014.

Jonsson's sister Caroline wrote in a Facebook post about her concerns over Jayamaha's pardon before it was announced.

"He showed and continues to show absolutely no remorse for what he has done," she wrote.

"We've worked hard to rebuild our lives and here we are, going into 15 years, still fighting for justice. Unfortunately, we now have to prepare ourselves for the worst possible outcome, the pardon of my sister's murderer."

Many Sri Lankans took to social media to condemn Mr Sirisena.

"Monstrous act by a failed president," said a Twitter user identified as Thass.

"This news makes me sick," said Shamila Cooray.

Others speculated Sirisena may have pardoned Jayamaha to test the waters before pardoning another high-profile death-row inmate whose family owns radio and television stations that support him.

Mr Sirisena failed to secure support of his own party to contest the November 16 election and must leave soon after results are declared, a day or two after the polls.