Riot police smashed prison protest

[TamilNet, Saturday, 29 November 1997, 23:59 GMT]
The Sri Lankan riot Police broke up a fast unto death protest of Tamil prisoners and snatched away the camera of the Virakesari (Tamil daily) photographer who was at the scene this morning as the Sri Lankan government tried to control the repercussions of the developments in its Welikada jail.

The Police threatened 223 Tamils who began a fast yesterday to protest against their prolonged detention at the Welikada prison in Colombo with violence and forcibly herded them into four buses which rushed to the prison in Kalutara, south of Colombo.

The Police climbed the roof of the prison where several protesters were seated to forcibly bring them down to the join others who were being loaded into the vehicles.

About 35 family members of the prisoners who had come to see them cried and collapsed on the ground in grief when the detainees were forced into the buses, to be transferred to Kalutara.

The Virakesari photographer was at the scene, recording everything on his camera from morning when the Police had climbed the prison's roof to break up the protest fast of the prisoners.

Around 12 noon as he was photographing the grieving parents and relatives, the Police snatched away his camera and despite his protests exposed the film in it.

The cameraman was also threatened.

Parents and relatives of the fasting Tamil prisoners had come mainly from Kilinochchi, Chilaw and Trincomalee.

The prisoners said they will continue their protest fast in the Kalutara prison as well.

The government appears to have taken the decision to transfer the detainees to the Kalutara prison because it is not as easily accessible to Tamils as the Welikada jail which is in the city of Colombo itself.

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