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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.

    01/08/2016 10:59:00 SRI LANKA
    International Red Cross: The families of the missing deserve support

    The organization carried out a survey of 395 families. It compiled a list of 16 thousand disappeared, but the numbers are much higher. The report contains a number of suggestions to give economic and psychological support for the relatives of the victims.



    28/10/2010 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lanka, families remember their "disappeared"
    Since the '80s tens of thousands of disappearances related to the long civil war that " have never been clarified", amid government inaction. The commemoration was held at the monument site at the junction of Raddoluwa in the city of Seeduwa. The 20th year the celebration has been held.

    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.

    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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