Campaigners for justice for a British Red Cross worker murdered in Sri Lanka have given cautious welcome to reports indicating eight suspects will shortly face trial 19 months after his death.
Khuram Shaikh, 32, from Milnrow, near Rochdale, was shot and stabbed on Christmas Day 2011 while on holiday in Tangalle in the south of the island after an altercation at his hotel.
Eight people, including a prominent local politician, were arrested and bailed in November.
The Island newspaper has reported that the accused will be “shortly indicted” and would be charged on 10 counts, including murder.
A spokesman at the Sri Lankan high commission said the case had been transferred from Tangalle to Colombo and that DNA testing, which had held up proceedings, had been completed and was now with the attorney general’s department.
The development follows pressure from Simon Danczuk, the family’s MP, who has recently had high-level meetings in Sri Lanka to raise the subject during which, he said, he was given assurances the case would go to trial.
In March, the Sri Lankan government said the attorney general was to forward a direct indictment to the high court. In June, the British high commission said it was deeply disappointed trial proceedings had not commenced.
Campaigners have called on prime minister David Cameron to boycott the Commonwealth heads of government meeting to be hosted by Sri Lanka in Colombo in November in protest.
Shaikh, who had just spent months fitting prosthetic limbs in Gaza, was spending Christmas and the new year on the island when he became involved in an altercation, and was stabbed and shot. A female colleague with him was assaulted and left badly injured.
His brother, Nasir Shaikh, 41, an NHS IT programme manager in Liverpool, said: “My family has waited a long time for justice. Our lives have been put on hold ever since we took a phone call on Christmas Day 2011 telling us what had happened. We all just want a sense of closure and we cannot rest until justice has been served.”
Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, said: “I welcome the fact that the Sri Lankan authorities have indicated they are about to charge those suspected of Khuram’s murder. But we have been here before with promises of justice being delivered swiftly and 19 months has passed without any progress. So we will wait before the charges are made. We have had plenty of warm words of encouragement. But the family and everyone associated with the campaign just want to see action.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “The British government regularly impress upon the Sri Lankan authorities the importance that we and the family of Khuram Shaikh attach to bringing those responsible to justice. They are in no doubt as to the seriousness with which we view these terrible events, and have assured us of the same.
“We hope that 19 months after this heinous crime the accused will soon face a fair trial, free from political interference. As the crime was committed in Sri Lanka, the authorities in that country are responsible for investigating.”