New York: Two Canada-based LTTE operatives have been extradited to the US on charges of conspiring to acquire arms and ammunition, besides warship design software which the rebel group planned to use against Lankan military.
Piratheepan Nadarajah, 36 and Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32 were arraigned on Thursday in a federal court in Brooklyn and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The two had been fighting extradition since 2006 when the US had first accused them of conspiring to support the LTTE.
The Supreme Court of Canada had earlier this month struck down their appeals to not to be extradited to the US.
Bail hearings for the two men are scheduled for January 09.
Nadarajah is charged with conspiring and attempting to acquire a million dollars worth of anti-aircraft missiles, missile launchers and other military equipment and conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the LTTE.
Sriskandarajah is also charged with dealing in the property of a specially designated terrorist group.
"As alleged, these two defendants were part of the cycle of sophisticated arms and large sums of money that fuelled their terrorist organisation. As LTTE operatives, the defendants were bent on procuring high-powered weaponry and high-tech equipment and designs for the LTTE," US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said.
Lynch added that the two Tamil Tigers operatives "stopped at nothing to achieve their goals, even using students to smuggle prohibited items into Sri Lanka”.
The two were arrested in Canada at the request of the US government and were extradited this week to face the charges.
Nadarajah faces a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison while Sriskandarajah faces a maximum sentence of 25 years of imprisonment if convicted.
According to the superseding indictment and other court filings, Nadarajah and several co-conspirators engaged in negotiations with an undercover FBI agent between July and August 2006 to purchase and export high-powered weapons and military equipment including 20 heat-seeking, surface-to-air, anti-aircraft missiles, 10 missile launchers and 500 AK-47s.
Nadarajah and his associates attempted to acquire these weapons at the direction of senior LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, including the then LTTE chief of intelligence and procurement Pottu Amman, who was also the top deputy to then-LTTE leader Prabakharan.
Between September 2004 and April 2006, Sriskandarajah and several co-conspirators assisted a principal LTTE procurement officer to research and acquire aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software, and communication equipment.