For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
By Krishan Francis (CP) – 16 hours ago
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A Sri Lankan court on Monday ordered the release of a Web site owner who spent 19 months in detention on government accusations of supporting separatist rebels, the man’s attorney said.
Vetrivel Jasiharan was released after the state attorney withdrew the charges, said Jasiharan’s lawyer, K.V. Thavarasha. The state attorney did not give a reason for the withdrawal and could not be reached Monday evening.
Jasiharan’s now-defunct site, Outreachsl.com, discussed the political rights of the country’s ethnic minority Tamils. He was arrested in March 2008 on allegations of supporting the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, who were defeated in May after a 25-year civil war that left between 80,000 and 100,000 people dead.
Jasiharan had been in detention for 19 months pending his court hearing.
Thavarasha said Jasiharan’s lawyers reciprocated Monday by withdrawing a case accusing the state of illegal arrest, detention and torture of their client to get a confession.
Many local and international press freedom groups have accused Sri Lankan authorities of muzzling the media with a tough anti-terror law during and after the civil war.
In May, President Barack Obama singled out Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam as an example of persecuted journalists around the world.
Tissainayagam, whose articles criticized the government for its conduct in the war, was sentenced last month to 20 years in jail with hard labour on the same charges as Jasiharan. His sentence drew widespread international criticism. He is trying to appeal.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has said at least 11 Sri Lankan reporters were forced to flee the country in the past year, and Amnesty International has said at least 14 Sri Lankan journalists and media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006.