Buddhist, Christian and Muslim clergy are calling for the release of suspected Tamil separatists held for years under Sri Lanka’s controversial anti-terrorism laws.
The prisoners are believed to have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act issued during Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war. The law gives the military sweeping powers to detain and arrest people deemed to be threats to national security.
Venerable Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thero said that there are 81 suspected Tamil rebels who have been detained for 22 years under the terrorism law. They were arrested on suspicion of having links with the Tamil Tiger rebel group during the war or soon after it ended in 2009.
“Still the charges against them are not established,” he said at the Congress of Religions at Maha Bodhi Society on June 21 in Colombo.
“If the state needs to rehabilitate them, please do it and release them,” said the Buddhist monk.
Anglican Father Noel Fernando said the suspects were not yet indicted in a court of law. “It is a humanitarian issue and the state should take steps to produce them in courts,” he said.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act is a draconian piece of legislation adopted by the Sri Lankan parliament on 1979 and it provides police with broad powers to search, arrest, and detain suspects.
Under the law, a person can be detained for up to 18 months (renewable by order every three months) if a cabinet minister has reason to believe or suspects that any person is connected with or concerned with any unlawful activity.
Unlawful activities may include even pasting posters on walls, and is punishable with death.
The Congress of Religions decided to send an appeal to the Sri Lankan president for a suitable solution.
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