Slamming the arrest of a priest and an activist, Church calls for their immediate release
by Melani Manel Perera
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.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - "We condemn this unlawful arrest. We call upon the government, which boasts about securing the rights of oppressed people, to release them immediately and show that the freedom it speaks about actually exists," said the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM) in a statement released at a press conference held at the Centre for Society and Religion in Maradana.

In its communiqué, the CSM calls for the release of a Catholic priest and a human rights activist who were arrested two days ago on terrorism charges.

The Christian group was joined by the Catholic National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development, which, in a separate statement, called their arrest "inhuman and arbitrary."

Fr Praveen Maneshan, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI) who directs the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) in Jaffna, and Mr Ruki Fernando, special adviser to INFORM, a Human Rights Documentation Centre based in Colombo, were arrested for terrorism after visiting a community in Kilinochchi.

On Saturday, a Tamil woman was also arrested along with her 13-year-old daughter on charges of "harbouring a criminal."

Fr Praveen Maneshan and Ruki Fernando did not do anything illegal or criminal," the CSM said. "They only gave a voice to those who have none. Theirs is a humanitarian commitment. For many years, they have worked for the rights of the people, without distinction of race, creed or origin."

"We call on the authorities to provide them with free access to lawyers and to carry out transparent investigations," said Fr George Sigamoney, executive secretary of the Catholic National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development.

Other people involved in human rights and members of the local Catholic clergy also spoke out at the press conference organised by the CSM.

"By acting this way, the government is trying to tell the world that Tamil terrorists still exist and that they still have supporters" said Fr Marimuttu Sathivel, one of the participants.

"In doing so, they are saying that the military must still be present in the northern and eastern provinces."