For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
By ANIQA HAIDER , May 22, 2011
A BAHRAIN-based author who was stranded in Sri Lanka for nearly 14 months after being accused of blasphemy has had the case against her dropped.
Sarah Malanie Perera was detained via emergency laws in Colombo in March last year for alleged “anti-state” activities and links to Islamic militants.
She was locked up for two months before being released on 50,000 rupees bail (BD180), but was banned from leaving the country.
The 39-year-old was arrested for the publication of a book, which described her conversion from Buddhism to Islam.
Lawyer Lakshan Dias confirmed she had been released and was already back in Bahrain.
“Ms Perera was released by the Colombo Magistrate and she left the country on the same night,” he told the GDN from Sri Lanka.
“She was released on the order of Attorney-General’s Department where the authorities decided to drop charges.
“The release order was received by the Magistrate’s Court last month according to the record, but the staff failed to submit the documents on time.
“An eminent lawyer and prominent figure in the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Nizam Kariapper intervened and confirmed documents were submitted to the court and subsequently she was released.”
Ms Perera could not be reached for comment and Mr Dias confirmed he had not had contact with her since she returned to Bahrain.
He said her sister Najmah e-mailed him to confirm the author had reached home safely, but was keeping a low profile due to the unrest.
Ms Perera was on holiday in Sri Lanka when she was arrested for trying to post copies of her books From Darkness to Light and Questions and Answers to Bahrain.
They focus on her conversion to Islam and the original teachings of Buddha.
She was charged via two sections of a law that makes it illegal to insult religion and was facing up to three years in jail, if convicted.
But Ms Perera, who first came to Bahrain in 1985, denied having any links to Islamic extremists and claimed she was being victimised for exercising her freedom of expression.
She earlier said she had only gone to Sri Lanka to assist her elder sister Mariam, who owned a gift and flowers shop.
Mr Dias previously argued his client had no intention of insulting the Buddhist faith and there were no grounds for a criminal case.
She embraced Islam in 1999 after studying religion at Discover Islam.
Her father Norbet Perera, mother Soma and sisters Padma, Rasa, Padmani and Malanie also later converted to Islam. They are now called Mohammed, Aisha, Fatima, Raihana, Fowzia and Najmah respectively. firstname.lastname@example.org
Gulf Daily News