Sri Lanka: Publisher released; journalist remains imprisoned

***UPDATE (4 May 2010): English PEN warmly welcomes the announcement that on 3 May 2010 – World Press Freedom Day – Tamil journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam (J. S.) Tissainayagam received a presidential pardon. J.S. Tissainayagam was detained in March 2008 and sentenced to twenty years in prison for his critical writings. He was released on bail on 11 January 2010 pending appeal. For more information, please click here. ***

English PEN welcomes the release of Tamil publisher Vetrivel Jasikaran (Jasiharan) and his wife Vadivel Valarmathy, on 26 October 2009, after being held for nineteen months. Their detention was linked to that of journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam (J. S.) Tissainayagam who is serving a twenty-year prison sentence for his critical writings.

According to our information, Tamil publisher and owner of the E-Kwality Printing Works, and journalist for the news website Outreach Sri Lanka, Vetrivel Jasikaran and his wife Vadivel Valarmathy, were released on 26 October 2009, after the State Prosecutor announced that there was no evidence to support the charge that the couple had links with terrorist acts or organisations. The couple were arrested on 6 March 2008 by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in Colombo, and were held under the Emergency Regulations (ER) for allegedly aiding and abetting Tamil journalist and Outreach Sri Lanka editor J. S. Tissainayagam in his activities. The three of them remained held for five months without charges. There were allegations of police ill-treatment against them during that period. Initial reports suggested that both journalists were accused of receiving money from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) rebel group; however it is widely believed that they were targeted for their reporting and analysis on the conflict between government forces and the LTTE in the northern part of the country.

On 31 August 2009 a High Court in Sri Lanka sentenced J. S. Tissainayagam to twenty years’ imprisonment with hard labour under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), for “causing communal disharmony” in his articles published in 2006 by the magazine North-Eastern Monthly. In addition, he was found guilty of raising funds to publish the magazine. A confession made by Tissainayagam while in police custody and allegedly forced under torture was used as evidence to convict him. His sentence is currently under appeal.

English PEN reiterates its demand for J. S. Tissainayagam’s immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Sri Lanka is a state party.

Further information

Previous International PEN alert

Amnesty International report

Recommended Action
Minimum action: Send one appeal to one or more of the government addresses below
Further Action: Write a similar appeal to the Sri Lankan Ambassador in your country or send a copy of your letter to Sri Lanka asking him/her to comment on your concerns

Please send appeals:

• Welcoming the release of Vetrivel Jasikaran and his wife Vadivel Valarmathy; 
• Calling for J. S. Tissainayagam’s immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party.

Appeals to:

His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Sri Lanka
Fax: 94 11 2446657
Salutation: Your Excellency

Hon. Amarasiri Dodangoda
Minister of Justice and Law Reforms
Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms
Superior Courts Complex,
Colombo 12
Sri Lanka
Fax: 94 11 2445447
Salutation: Dear Minister

H. M. G.  S.  Palihakkara
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
#630, 3rd Avenue (20th Floor)
New York  10017 
United States America
Fax 1 (212) 986-1838 

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Sri Lanka in your country if possible:

His Excellency Justice Nihal Jayasinghe

High Commission of Sri Lanka
No.13, Hyde Park Gardens
London W2 2LU
United Kingdom

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