In a letter sent to Minister for Human Rights and Disaster Management Mahinda Samarasinghe today, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demanded an immediate explanation for the sudden relocation of journalist J.S. Tissainayagam to a notoriously violent army prison in Sri Lanka.
According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, Tissainayagam, who is currently facing trial under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations, was moved from a remand prison to Magazine Prison in Colombo following a visit from the Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe, on November 17.
The Minister reportedly agreed at the meeting to improve the conditions of Tissainayagam’s detention, the FMM reports.
The IFJ expressed its extreme concerned for the safety and well-being of the senior Tamil journalist. Tissainayagam nor his lawyers, who appeared in the courts on November 18, were made aware of the relocation to Sri Lanka’s largest prison.
Reports have been received that his food has been confiscated by some of the 140 prisoners sharing his cell. No other food has been provided.
“The IFJ demands an immediate explanation for Tissainayagam’s transfer and a government guarantee of his safety,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
“The manner in which Tissainayagam has been arrested, detained without charge, indicted under draconian laws and imprisoned in appalling conditions is a gross abuse of his fundamental human right to justice.
“Tissainayagam’s safety is now at even more serious risk than it was before his transferral to Magazine. It is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan Government to abide by internationally endorsed norms of justice to protect him from violence and torture while he is held in custody.”
Tissainayagam has been held since he was arrested on March 7 by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lankan Police. He was detained without charge for more than 150 days.
On August 25, Tissainayagam was charged under Emergency Regulations and the PTA, accused of printing and distributing the North Eastern Monthly magazine and aiding and abetting terrorist organisations by raising money for the magazine. His trial is presently before the High Court in Colombo.