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    » 03/17/2014, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    Sri Lanka, Catholic priest and human rights activist arrested

    Melani Manel Perera

    The police deny everything, but the detainees warned others they were being taken away via text message. The two had asked for information on the whereabouts of a Tamil woman and her 13 year old daughter, arrested on suspicion of "hiding a criminal in their house". Their fate remains unknown.

    Colombo ( AsiaNews) - A Catholic priest and a human rights activist were arrested yesterday by the Kilinochchi anti-terrorism police (TID) in northern Sri Lanka. Fr. Praveen OMI, director of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation ( CPR ) in Jaffna, and Ruki Fernando, special advisor of the Center for human rights documentation, are in the Colombo TID. The police deny the detention of the two, but Fr. Ashok Stephen OMI, who works with Fr. Praveen, confirmed the arrest to AsiaNews. In fact Ruki Fernando warned some friends of their arrest, via text message.

    "This morning - explains Fr. Ashok, who is also a lawyer - I presented in my vestments and asked for Fr. Praveen . A few minutes later the officer Walisundara told me that that person was not there, he asked me to wait and then they questioned me. They were more interested in me than in telling me where Fr. Praveen and Ruki were. They reiterated that the two are not being held in custody in Colombo. If the situation does not change, I will present an official court complaint".

    Their arrest was also confirmed by Fr. Rohan Silva , provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Colombo. Last night the priest was able to speak with Fr. Praveen, who confirmed he is in a police station in Kilinochchi. In a message sent to some of his friends, Ruki Fernando said he was interrogated separately from the priest.

    Local sources have told AsiaNews that the two Catholics were arrested by a dozen police officers for visiting Darmapuram (Kilinochchi), where on March 15 police arrested a Tamil woman and her 13 year old daughter (see photo) . The mother, Balendran Jeyakumari, is an activist for human rights with a group that works with the Families of the Disappeared. She herself has lost her husband and two grown sons, who were killed during the civil war. A third child disappeared into thin air in 2009, at the end of the conflict.

    Witnesses say that March 15 about one hundred soldiers and policemen surrounded Balendran's house, preventing anyone from being able to enter or exit. Then they stormed it dragging away the woman and her teenage daughter, whose name is Vithushani. According to police, the activist "gave refuge to a criminal".  But no evidence of this was found.

     

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    See also

    18/03/2014 SRI LANKA
    Slamming the arrest of a priest and an activist, Church calls for their immediate release
    The Christians Solidarity Movement (CSM) and the National Catholic Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development strongly condemn the arrest of Fr Praveen OMI and Ruki Fernando.

    21/09/2006 SRI LANKA
    Catholic Church alarmed country might fall "into a state of anarchy"
    The archbishop of Colombo voices local clergy's concerns about the escalating violence in the country's north-east, calling on the authorities to shed light on the disappearance of Fr Jim Brown.

    12/12/2009 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lanka: Negombo fishermen protesting against government and police
    On the Day for the Defence of Human Rights 500 members of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement and other associations in the fisheries sector have demonstrated against illegal fishing and the inaction of government and police. For them Colombo’s policies encourages the logic of profit and the development of tourism at the expense of small fishermen.

    21/03/2014 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lanka: Freed Catholic activists “forbidden to speak to press or leave country"
    At the request of the Anti- terrorism Department (TID), a court in Colombo issues a restraining order for Fr. Praveen Maheshan and Ruki Fernando. They will also have to hand over their computers and phones. The two had been arrested for having asked to see an arrested Tamil activist. Priest of the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM): "Why does our country prevent us from practicing our faith?".

    08/03/2013 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lankan police stop hundreds of Tamils from taking part in peaceful protest
    The people blocked (75% women) were from the north and went to Colombo to protest against enforced disappearances. Police and army speak of "security reasons", but witnesses tell of threats.



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