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2 Tamil activists arrested by counter-terrorism police at Heathrow

Tamils protesters in Geneva. March 5, 2019

Two Tamil activists were arrested by counter-terrorism police at Heathrow airport yesterday morning as they were about to travel to Geneva to participate in a demonstration at the UN Human Rights Council, calling for Sri Lanka to be referred to the International Criminal Court. 

Vakeesan Thangavel, 36 and his friend were surrounded by armed police as they boarded their flight at 6.20am. His home was raided yesterday afternoon and his laptop and documents seized. 

Both men were released on bail later that evening. 

In a statement the Metropolitan Police said: 

"Two men have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences following a call from a member of the public. 

The men were stopped at Heathrow airport yesterday morning, 4 March, under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. 

Police were called at approximately 06:20hrs to a report that two men within terminal two departures were displaying a flag believed to be linked to a proscribed Sri Lankan group.

Officers subsequently removed two men, aged 31 and 36, from a plane due to depart for Geneva and they were initially detained under schedule 7. Following further enquiries, both men were arrested on suspicion of wearing, carrying or displaying an article as to arouse reasonable suspicion that they are a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation (contrary to section 13 of the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2000) and membership of a proscribed organisation (contrary to section 11 TACT 2000).

They were taken to a West London police station, and have subsequently been released on police bail until a date in late March. Enquiries continue."

Read more here on Morning Star. 

Tamil Eelam flags

The latest incident comes just days after it was revealed at a court case involving Sri Lanka's former defence attache that the country officials in the UK were expected to be "monitoring any anti-Sri Lanka activities in the UK" and reporting to the ministry of defence, intelligence agencies, amongst others, as well as "monitoring any LTTE activities in the UK and devising appropriate plan with the coordination of intelligence agencies in Sri Lanka to counter it". 

Read more: Judge says Brigadier death threats not covered by diplomatic immunity

In October 2018 four Tamil activists including a member of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) were arrested by UK police after protesting the visit of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister in Oxford.