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Sri Lanka releases prominent Tamil rights activist on bail

Balendran Jeyakumari detained for nearly a year under controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act

Sri Lanka releases prominent Tamil rights activist on bail

Tamil rights activist Balendran Jeyakumari (center) stands with supporters after being released on bail yesterday (Credit: ucanews.com) 

Published: March 11, 2015 03:37 AM GMT

Updated: April 24, 2015 04:28 PM GMT

Tamil rights activist Balendran Jeyakumari, who was arrested last year for allegedly harboring those who wanted to revitalize the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) movement, was released on bail Tuesday.

The outspoken activist was arrested on March 13, 2014 and her 13-year-old daughter sent to a children’s house in north.

Balendran was detained for nearly a year under the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which was oft used under the regime of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa to silence dissenters.

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Balendran had campaigned against enforced disappearances in north but she was often threatened and intimidated. After her detention, no charges were filed against her.

“We welcome the release of the involuntary disappearances activist from more than 360 days of detention. Jeyakumari is not the only victim of unlawful detention,” said rights activist Britto Fernando, who went to the court Tuesday to greet Jeyakumari upon her release.

“According to the government statistics there are 280 political prisoners but there [are likely] more who were arrested and unlawfully detained by the Terrorist Investigation Division,” said Fernando, convener of the Families of the Disappeared and co-convener of the Platform for Freedom.

He called on the government to repeal the PTA, which has frequently been employed to justify the arrest and detention of activists and rights defenders. Hundreds of journalists, rights activists and LTTE suspects have been punished over the years under the draconian piece of legislation — with some imprisoned for 10 years without trial.

Jeyakumari was ordered released on a personal bail of Rs200,000 (US$1,500) and ordered to appear at the police station on the last Sunday of every month.

Acting police spokesperson ASP Ruwan Gunasekara told media that Jeyakumari could not leave the country.

Ruki Fernando, a prominent rights activist, said it was disturbing that human rights defenders detained under anti terror laws were being bailed with such conditions.

“This happened in 2009 to a colleague, and restrictions for me were placed on speaking [to media] and travel for a year [after I was arrested last year], and now it is [the same with] Jeyakumari,” he said.

Three days after Jeyakumari’s, arrest Ruki Fernando and an oblate priest were arrested when they visited to look into Jeyakumari’s case.

After calls from foreign governments and rights groups they were released. However, Fernando was banned from speaking to the media about his arrest.

“Her release will bring hope to other political prisoners, some of whom are in detention for years without cases being concluded and others are in detention for years without even any charges,” he said.

For decades the Sri Lankan government was embroiled in a brutal civil war against the LTTE, an insurgent group that fought to carve out a separate Tamil homeland in the country’s North and East until it was defeated militarily by government forces in May of 2009.

Both sides stand accused of a range of human rights violations committed during the conflict, which claimed the lives of as many as 40,000 civilians in its final days alone, according to the United Nations.


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