Petition calling for the release of political prisoners given to Sri Lankan President Sirisena (Photos)
by Melani Manel Perera

At least 160 people have been detained since 2009. At the end of the civil war nearly 15,000 were arrested on suspicion of links with the Tamil Tigers. Families slam confessions obtained by deception.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – In a letter handed to the Secretary of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, the National Movement for the Release of Political Prisoners (NMRPP) calls for a solution to the problems involving the country’s many ethnic groups as well as the release of all political prisoners, most of whom are Tamils, who still languish in the country’s prisons as a result of false accusations.

On Wednesday, NMRPP activists marched in silence to the Secretariat of the President. To back the demand for the release of the last detainees arrested at the end of the Civil War, they presented about 50,000 signatures collected in recent months across the country.

According to the activists, at least 160 prisoners have not returned to their families even though most of the 15,000 people jailed in 2009 (when hostilities between the army and Tamil rebels ended) were freed.

Rajithaa Arulprakash, 9, said she saw his father for the last time when she was very little. "From that moment,” she said, “I have not received any love from my father, and when I miss him, I can only see him in a picture."

Others dispute the allegations that led to the arrest of family members. This is the case of Ms Shivagi, who is married to T. Shivagi, who owned a welding shop. He was arrested in 2008 on charges of being a member of the Tamil Tigers. "It is not true and now he is also ill with diabetes,” she said.

Another case involves Selvaraasa Kirubakaran’s 38-year-old brother. He said that the latter’s confession was extorted through deception "by counterterrorism officials and police who made him drink arrack, and then forced him to sign a document in which he admitted his involvement with the Tigers."

"We ask the president to deliver on his promises,” said Rev Marimuttu Sathivel, an Anglican clergyman and NMRPP organiser. “The release of prisoners would be a critical step toward reconciliation between communities."