Sri Lankan Tamil journo gets presidential pardon

Last Updated: Monday, May 3, 2010 - 15:39

Colombo: A prominent Sri Lankan Tamil journalist, whose arrest and subsequent 20-year sentence for `supporting terrorism` had drawn international condemnation, has been pardoned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa has ordered the release of Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam, who was recently released on bail after being sentenced for 20 years imprisonment, a top minister said.

"President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to pardon journalist JS Tissainayagam, who was convicted on August 31, 2009 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act," External Affairs Minister GL Peiris told reporters here.

Tissainayagam, 45, who was contributing to the local Sunday Times since 2007 and also ran a website that focused on the country`s Tamil population, was found guilty of spreading `racial hatred` and `supporting terrorism` by the Colombo High court last year.

Tissainayagam who was arrested in March 2008 and later charged under the anti-terrorism legislation, was released on bail in January this year due to poor health. He had been sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment.

The move to order his release was made to mark World Press Freedom Day, Peiris said.

Tissainayagam`s conviction was based on two articles he wrote criticising the government`s military campaign against the now-defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

The scribe was detained for over 400 days prior to being charged for writing the article in the pro-LTTE magazine North Eastern Herald, which has since been closed.

His detention and sentenced had drawn criticism from international human rights groups.

US President Barack Obama had said in May last year that he was concerned over threats to media the world over and referred to Tissainayagam`s case as an example.

"Emblematic examples of this distressing reality are figures like JS Tissainayagam in Sri Lanka, or Shi Tao and Hu Jia in China," Obama had said in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on May 03.

He was convicted on three counts including editing, printing and distributing the publication North Eastern Monthly magazine during the period between June 01, 2006 and June 01, 2007.

The journalist was also convicted for collecting money to run the magazine and thereby furtherance of terrorism, an offence punishable under Emergency Regulations.

PTI



First Published: Monday, May 3, 2010 - 15:39

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