LTTE sympathiser freed after 5 years in US prison

Karunakaran Kandasamy had pleaded guilty in 2009 to purchasing IEDs, missiles and machine guns and raising millions of dollars for LTTE.

New York: A Sri Lankan native, who was head of the LTTE in the US and had pleaded guilty to providing material support to the rebel group, was on Friday freed from prison after a judge here sentenced him to the time served of five years.

Karunakaran Kandasamy, 55, was among the four persons who had pleaded guilty in 2009 to purchasing improvised explosive devices, missiles and machine guns and raising millions of dollars for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Kandasamy had been in prison for five years and at his sentencing today in the US District Court in Brooklyn, Judge Raymond Dearie sentenced him to time served.

Prosecutors had argued that Kandasamy deserved a 20-year prison term since he was the leader of the LTTE in the US and was providing material support to a separatist group that had been designated as a terrorist organisation by the State Department.

Dearie, however, said a 20-year prison term would be excessive as he did not think Kandasamy, who had worked as a cab driver in the city, was a leader for the militant group but was involved in raising humanitarian and not military aid for the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.

"We do not accommodate any support of terrorism on US soil. That said, we have to pull back that emblazoned banner of terrorism and look at the case specifically," Dearie said.

Kandasamy`s lawyer Charles Ross had in a May 02 letter submitted in court, requested that his client be sentenced to time served and not be given any additional prison term.

Kandasamy "grew up in and was directly affected by the brutal regime in Sri Lanka and it is clear that his actions, while not excusable, were motivated by a deeply felt desire to help the community he loved," Ross had said in the letter.

He said his client, who had been given asylum in the US in 1980, belonged to an ethnic community that had been targeted for years for genocide by Sri Lanka`s ethnic majority.

Ross said Kandasamy, who is of Tamil origin "is a fundamentally good and decent man who wanted to help the community he clearly loved -- a community that suffered terribly for many years".

"There is no question that Kandasamy went too far and broke the law, but like other defendants in this case, he was motivated by a deep desire to help his people," the letter adds.

Ross also cited Kandasamy`s ill health in seeking no additional prison term, saying he suffered from hypertension, diabetes and his physical condition is that of a much older person.

In the 2009 criminal complaint, the US Justice Department had said the LTTE relied on "sympathetic Tamil expatriates" residing in countries like the US, Canada, and UK to raise and launder money and smuggle arms, explosives, equipment, and technology into LTTE-controlled territory.

The LTTE had established "branches" in at least 12 such countries and Kandasamy was the director of the American branch, which operated through charitable front organisations, including the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO).

Kandasamy oversaw and directed the LTTE`s various activities in America, including raising millions of dollars for the LTTE and laundering it through the TRO, the Justice Department had said.


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