2nd lead (Corrections)

Kalutara Tamil prisoners put off fasting campaign

[TamilNet, Thursday, 27 May 2004, 22:04 GMT]
Mr. Sivanathan Kishore, the Tamil National Alliance Member of Parliament from the Vanni, who visited the Kalutara prison Thursday, said that the Tamil youths at the prison have put off their planned fasting campaign, following assurances that the TNA would take up their plight with Sri Lanka’s Attorney General and the Minister of Justice. Arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), many youths have been languishing in jails for several years without their cases being brought to court.

Mr. Kishore had received information from the prisoners, stating that none was taking any action to expedite their pending cases, or to release them when there are no serious charges. The prisoners said they planned to engage in a fasting campaign.

The Vanni MP said he had told the Tamil youths at the prison that the TNA MPs would take up the issue with Sri Lanka’s President when they meet with her.

Thirty-nine Tamil political prisoners are imprisoned in Kalutara. The youths were arrested during the period of 1997-2001 under the PTA from several districts: Mannar, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Puttalam, Nuwara Eliya and Badulla.

Of those, 12 youths have been convicted on charges, and 6 of them have appealed. Though charges have been brought against the remaining 27 youths, when these youths are taken to courts, often either the Sri Lanka government’s prosecuting attorney or the defense attorney is absent. When the attorneys are available, the witnesses are not. When everyone else is present, the Judge is not, the youths have complained, according to Mr. Kishore.

Such a situation has meant that the cases against the youths are being dragged on interminably, and the youths, who say they are innocent, have expressed deep anguish about their plight. At a time when there is a ceasefire agreement between the Liberation Tigers and the Government of Sri Lanka, and GOSL officials are holding talks with LTTE fighters, the youths complain that innocent youths like themselves have to languish in jails, said Mr. Kishore.

He said that though the youths lack many of the facilities granted to other prisoners, they are not worried about that but made a moving plea that the TNA should work for their release by expediting the cases.

The MP said that he has undertaken to repair a TV donated to the prisoners by well-wishers that has stopped functioning.

 

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