A Canadian court on Thursday ruled that four Tamil men accused of people smuggling from Sri Lanka were not guilty, stating that the men were asylum seekers.
Francis Anthonimuthu Appulonappa, Hamalraj Handasamy, Jeyachandran Kanagarajah and Vignarajah Thevarajah were accused of trying to organise the trafficking of asylum seekers via the MV Ocean Lady in October 2009.
“I am also not satisfied that their actions were to obtain either directly or indirectly a financial or material benefit, or that any of the them obtained one,” Justice Arne Silverman said, concluding the Crown had failed to prove its case.
“I have determined that these four accused were asylum seekers and that there is an air of reality to the defence of mutual aid.”
In 2015 Canada's Supreme Court ruled that the provision of humanitarian aid should not fall under people smuggling laws.
“The government has spent years and huge amounts of money to fight the passengers of the Ocean Lady and the Sun Sea — in the courts, in the refugee hearing processes, detaining them as long as they could. All for what?” the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, Janet Dench told Canada's National Post.
“The charges of criminality and security risks have been shown to be without foundation. At least we can take pride in the fact that Canadian institutions and courts continue to treat people fairly.”