Sri Lankan doctor accused of sterilising thousands of women

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Sri Lanka has a long history of communal violence. Photo credit: Getty

A Sri Lankan court has granted bail to a Muslim doctor accused of having sterilised more than 4000 women from the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, his lawyer says, a deeply sensitive case in a country long dogged by communal bloodshed.

Shegu Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi, who has denied the allegations, was given bail of 2.75 million rupees ($60,000), defence lawyer Faris Saly told Reuters after a hearing on Thursday in Kurunagala magistrates court in northwestern Sri Lanka.

"He was arrested (in May) under a bailable offence and the judge found no reason to refuse bail today," Saly said.

Police stood guard at the court and surrounding area in the South Asian country's Buddhist heartland, 100km north of the capital Colombo, where Buddhist monks and other residents had sought Shafi's continued detention.

The allegations are incendiary on an island where hardliners within the Buddhist majority have accused Muslims of seeking to use a higher birth rate to spread their influence.

Sri Lanka has a long history of communal violence. A decades-long, devastating civil war between the Sinhalese and the mainly Hindu Tamil minority ended in 2009.

Shafi's supporters have said he is innocent and the charges were whipped up to stoke inter-communal tensions following the bombings of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday that killed more than 250 people, which were blamed on Islamist militants.