A Sri Lankan court has ruled that an alleged confession made by senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam while detained by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) was voluntary and admissible as evidence in his trial on terrorism charges. The International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ) is informed however that Tissainayagam was forced to make a statement to TID under extreme duress.
Giving evidence in Colombo’s High Court on November 5, Tissainayagam denied making a voluntary confession.
After being detained by the TID of the Sri Lankan police on March 7 this year, Tissainayagam was held without charge or explanation for more than 150 days. It is alleged that Tissainayagam, the editor of an online newspaper, OutreachSL.com, made a voluntary confession during this time.
However, Tissainayagam was reportedly subjected to duress and denied private access to lawyers. Court hearings during this period were postponed arbitrarily. The Supreme Court denied Tissainayagam’s lawyers a fundamental rights petition for interim relief, submitted on the grounds of arbitrary arrest, torture, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and a denial of equality of protection under law.
Indictments against Tissainayagam and his two colleagues, N. Jesiharan and his partner Valarmathi, were filed before the High Court of Colombo on August 25. The three were charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a draconian law introduced in 1979 as an ostensibly temporary measure.
The IFJ and other international press freedom organisations are extremely concerned for the safety and welfare of the three. Tissainayagam and Jesiharan, the owner of E-Kwality Printers, were moved from a remand prison to the notoriously dangerous Magazine Prison in Colombo on November 17, according to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate.
The continuation of the trial against Tissainayagam has reportedly been postponed until December 18.
The IFJ joins the FMM in calling for fair judicial process to be applied to all aspects of the continuation of Tissainayagam’s trial, including the procurement of his safety and protection in Magazine Prison.