Sri Lankan editor held for link to Tamil Tiger air attack

A Sri Lankan newspaper editor has been detained over alleged links to a Tamil Tiger air attack in the capital, a family member said on Thursday.

Nadesapillai Vidyatharan, an ethnic Tamil who edits the Tamil-language daily Sudar Oli, appeared in court on Wednesday and was detained under anti-terrorism laws for up to three months, his brother-in-law, E Saravanapavan, said.

He said the family were only informed of the court proceedings afterwards.

There was no immediate comment from the police.

Police initially said he had been “abducted by unidentified gunmen” on February 26, but later admitted he was being held and was under investigation for alleged links with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

He is also accused of coordinating a Tiger air attack in the capital on February 20.

The Paris-based media rights group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has strongly condemned the detention.

“The authorities made the wrong choice when they decided to keep Vidyatharan in custody despite the fact that there are no grounds for the allegations of complicity with the Tamil Tiger rebels,” RSF said in a statement.

“We urge the Sri Lankan courts to reverse this decision and free him, because he is not a terrorist as the government claims.”

Another ethnic Tamil journalist, JS Tissainayagam of the private Sunday Times newspaper, has been held under an anti-terrorism law for more than a year for writing about civilians caught in fighting between troops and Tiger rebels.

Under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, suspects can in theory be held indefinitely without charge.

Investigators are only obliged to renew the detention by way of informing a court every three months.

According to official figures, nine journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka in the past three years, including Lasantha Wickrematunga, a member of the majority Sinhalese community, and editor of the Sunday Leader, who was shot by unknown gunmen in January.—AFP

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