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Protesters rally for political prisoners

Government denies claims that 900 are in custody

Protesters rally for political prisoners
Protesters at the rally make their feelings known

September 13, 2012

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More than 500 activists and political party representatives demonstrated in northern Sri Lanka yesterday to demand the release of suspected Tamil prisoners. Activists say there are at least 900 political detainees still in custody following the decades-long civil war that ended in 2009, although the government denies there are any. “We need to pressure the government,” said Selvam Adaikalanathan, a parliamentarian from the Tamil National Alliance. The support of the international community is needed, too, he said. Protester Sinthani Chelvam said he has been searching for his son for three years. “During the last phase of the war the army arrested my son who was wounded during the conflict but after that we didn’t see him,” he said. "We appeal to the authorities to release them if they are not guilty or charge them in a court of law. Some political prisoners have been brutally attacked and some have died.” The Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management, Nimal Siripala de Silva, told parliament recently that there were no political prisoners in Sri Lanka. However, he admitted there are 359 former Tamil Tiger “criminal” suspects still being detained, 309 with cases pending against them. Three new high courts will be established to prosecute those cases, officials have said. Tamils make up 18 percent of the nation's 20 million people. During the 25-year civil war, insurgents fought to create a separate Tamil state in the northern part of the island nation. They were finally defeated in May 2009. Related reports Pressure mounts to free political prisoners

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