Sri Lanka Court Upholds Alleged Confession by Tissainayagam- IFJ

 

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.

Sri Lanka jailed journalist nominated for award, faces lengthy prison term

Dec 03, 2008 (LBO) – An imprisoned Sri Lankan journalist, who faces a lengthy jail term for expressing his views, if convicted, has been nominated for a media freedom award by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
RSF said in a statement that J S Tissainayagam is one of six journalists from different countries to be nominated for the award for “journalists who through their work, their principled stand or their attitude have displayed support for freedom of information.”
Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi will present the prize to the winners on Thursday, December 04 in Paris.
Tissainayagam has been detained since March 2008 and is the first journalist to be charged for his writing under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, a law described as draconian by human rights groups.
The charges against him include promoting violence and bringing the government into disrepute in his writing between June 2006 and June 2007 in the North Eastern Monthly magazine.

Authorities assure the physical safety of Tissainayagam in Magazine Prison

 

The Free Media Movement (FMM) would like note that Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights, the Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, M.P. has assured that the physical safety of journalist J.S. Tissainayagam will be looked after, and that some steps have already been taken in this regard. Two representatives of the Ministry had visited him in the prison 20th (yesterday) morning. 

21st Nov 2008

FMM and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) also visited Mr. Tissainayagam at the Magazine Prison this afternoon along with two diplomats. Prison authorities assured that Tamil prisoners, including journalists Tissainayagam and Jaseeharan, are already separated from other prisoners. A number of international organisations, including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), have sent urgent letters of concern to the Minister  for Human Rights, and diplomatic community have conveyed their concerns as well.

FMM hopes that the assurances given and promises made by all relevant authorities including the Hon. Minister will be kept, and that basic humanitarian standards will be ensured during the detention of Tissainayagam and Jeseeharan.

Tissainayagam Moved to magazine Prison in Sri Lanka

 

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.

FMM fears for physical safety of journalist Tissainayagam in Magazine prison

J.S. Tissainayagam, senior journalist who is on trial before the High Court has been moved from the remand prison to the magazine prison in Colombo on November 18. No reasons have been given for this sudden move. Tissainayagam who appeared in courts on the 18th nor his lawyers were aware of this move.

He now remains in a room with 140 convicted criminals. Free Media Movement learns that Tissainayagam has been threatened by the some  prisoners. Since being moved to the magazine prison on November 18, Tissainayagam has not eaten. His dinner on the 18th was taken by the other prisoners. He was not provided with lunch on the 18th or breakfast on the 19th.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minster for Human Rights and Disaster Management had visited Tissainayagam on November 17th with the Prison Commissioner. At the meeting, the Minister and Prison Commissioner had agreed to improve the living conditions of the prison. The move to the magazine prison took place a day after the visit.

On March 7, the Terrorist Investigative Department (TID) arrested journalist J.S.  Tissainayagam and detained him without charges for more than 150 days. He was later charged both under Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act for printing and distributing the North Eastern Monthly magazine and aiding and abetting terrorist organisations through raising money for the magazine. His trial is presently before the High Court in Colombo.

Free Media Movement is concerned with the sudden development of events and this movement without any reasons being given to Tissainayagam or his lawyers. FMM appeals to the authorities to ensure the safety of Tissainayagam and provide him with food and other essential facilities while in prison.

Recommended action., Send letters of concern to:

 Hon. Minster Mahinda Samarasinghe, minster for  disaster mangement and Human Rights 

Fax: + 94112693284; info@dmhr.gov.lk

 Attorney Genarla Deptment, Sri Lanka

Fax   +94112436421administration@attorneygeneral.gov.lk

Sri Lanka detained journalist says threatened daily; quizzed in court over writing

Writer’s Trial: 
  
Nov 16, 2008 (LBO) – A Sri Lankan journalist who had been detained for over eight months had been questioned about what he wrote, and had also revealed to court that he had been repeatedly threatened, a media report said.
 
Senior journalist J S Tissainayagam’s case had been taken up Friday in Colombo High Court but the judicial medical officer summoned to give evidence was not present, The Sunday Times newspaper reported.

Earlier in the week Tissainayagam had testified that he had a serious eye condition, where an accident when he was 18 had caused a detached retina in both eyes and he had 50 percent vision.

Doctors had advised him that a blow to the head could make the condition recur.

He said officers of Sri Lanka’s terrorist investigation division who was holding him had threatened him saying he would be “beaten up like other detainees” and that he would go blind if the officers beat him, the report said.

He said he was threatened on a daily basis.

In cross-examination, a government lawyer had produced several documents and statements that. Tissainayagam was said to have signed on March 7, the day he was detained.

Tissainayagam had denied that it was his signature on the documents, saying he signed in the English language and therefore the signature on the documents could not be his.
 
Tissainayagam had told court on May 9 after he had seen another arrested colleague being tortured, and had been told the same would happen to him. The prosecution’s position was that he was lying, the report said.

The defence had asked for a medical officer who had reported on it to be called to court.

A government lawyer had questioned whether he had visited a Tamil Tiger controlled area with the permission of the Government and questioned him on an article he had written in November 2007 and asked him to read out portions of it.

Tissainayagam had read out the article and said he stood by it and added that as a journalist he had expressed his views, The Sunday Times said.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) had launched a campaign to free Tissainayagam saying it was a trial on the freedom of expression.

Tissa faces daily threats, fears loss of eyesight

 (Sunday Times 16th Nov)
When the case of senior journalist J. S. Tissainayagam who has been detained for more than eight months was taken up last Friday in the Colombo High Court, the Judicial Medical Officer summoned to give evidence in the case was not present.

Summons was re-issued on the JMO to be present when the case is next taken up on Tuesday.
Earlier in the week the testimony of Mr. Tissainayagam was concluded. Mr. Tissainayagam testified that he had a serious eye condition. He said that he had degenerative myopia from the age of seven and a serious accident when he was 18 led him to have detached retina in both eyes.

 
He said after the operation he had only about 50% vision in both eyes and that doctors had advised him to be very careful that any sudden movement or fall or blow to the head could make the condition recur and he could lose his eyesight. Mr. Tissainayagam said had informed the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) officers about his eye condition very early on in his detention.

He said, however, TID officers had threatened him saying he would be beaten up like the other detainees and therefore he was very afraid that he would go blind if the TID officers did beat him. He said he was threatened on a daily basis.

In cross-examination, State Counsel produced several documents and statements that Mr. Tissainayagam was said to have signed on March 7, the day he was detained by the TID. Mr. Tissainayagam denied that it was his signature on the documents clearly stating that he signed in the English language and therefore the signature on the documents could not be his.

State Counsel also questioned him as to whether he had visited the Wanni with the permission of the Government. Mr. Tissainayagam answered in the affirmative that he had visited the Wanni as a journalist. The State also questioned him on articles he had written in November 2007 after LTTE political head S. P. Thamilselvan’s death and asked him to read out portions of the article. Mr. Tissainayagam did read out his article and he said he stood by it and added as a journalist he had expressed his views.

Mr. Tissainayagam also said that on May 9 after he had seen his colleague Jasikaran being tortured, he had been told the same would happen to him. That was why he wrote down what was dictated to him by a TID officer, he said.

The prosecution’s position was that Mr. Tissainayagam was lying on this point. However when the defence attempted to mark the JMO’s report detailing Jasikaran’s torture on May 9 the prosecution objected and the objection was sustained. Therefore the defence asked for the JMO who had given the report to be called as a witness. The prosecution then said that it too would be calling other JMOs who had seen Jasikaran.

The trial will resume on Tuesday. Counsel Anil Silva with M.A. Sumanthiran, Nalin Ladduwahetty and Ms. Charmaine Gunaratne appeared for journalist Tissainayagam. State Counsel Sudarshana de Silva with Miss Samalka Samarasinghe appeared for the TID.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) had launched a campaign in September to end Mr. Tissainayagam’s detention as it said the case was a trial of the freedom of expression. As a part of that campaign they had produced a video depicting Mr. Tissainayagam going to the Magistrate’s Court and the show of solidarity witnessed outside the Magistrate’s Courts. However two weeks ago the video clip on UTube had been blocked by unknown persons.