03/19/2014, 00.00
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Sri Lanka, priest and human rights activist released: "Prayer can do anything"

by Melani Manel Perera
Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen Maheshan were released this morning after three days of detention for "terrorism". They speak to AsiaNews about their detention and thank the Church and civil society for their support: "Now freedom for the other political prisoners".

Colombo (AsiaNews ) - This morning at dawn Fr. Praveen Maheshan, a Tamil priest, and Ruki Fernando, a Sri Lankan Catholic activist, were released. The two had been arrested for "terrorism " on March 16 in Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka. The Colombo magistrate Aluthkade ordered their release without charges. However, police spokesman Ajith Rohana has announced  that the investigation that led to their arrests will continue. Contacted shortly after their release, Ruki Fernando told AsiaNews: "I truly believe that only the prayers and the massive attention paid by so many friends and colleagues here and around the world guaranteed my safety and that of Fr. Praveen. I thank God, who has heard and granted His full mediation".

The Catholic activist spoke to AsiaNews about what happened during his detention: "Immediately after my arrest in Kilinochchi I was questioned harshly. However After I was treated with respect and provided with food, water and toilet facilities, while in prison and during my transfer to Colombo. I was allowed meet my parents in the presence of an anti- terrorism official, but I also talked alone with representatives of the Commission for Human Rights. Both I and Fr. Praveen were examined by a medical examiner before being taken to Colombo. For all of this, I would like to thank the TID officers who treated humanely, guaranteeing us our rights".

However, it took some time before the two activists could speak with their lawyers. "As soon as I knew I was under arrest - he says - I requested the Kilinochchi police to meet my lawyer. I continued to ask several times, including during interrogation and ti high ranking officials. I know that several lawyers came and asked the TID to see me, but the Kilinochchi police stopped them".

Among the reasons the Ministry for Defense gave for their arrest was "causing discomfort to the government and earning money by sharing information with foreign countries".

Although freed and acquitted of the charges, Ruki Fernando admits to being "extremely concerned for the safety of other activists who work with me and others who have been in contact with me. At the same time I am moved by the support received. The treatment I received during detention and our release shows that the people have the power to give freedom and security to those who are vulnerable and in danger. Hopefully I will see a similar support to the many who are prisoners much longer than we were, to the families who seek the truth about their missing loved ones".


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