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Charges filed against former Jaffna University student representatives

Charges have been filed against former Jaffna University Students’ Union President M. Thivakaran and Secretary S. Babilaraj in Colombo's High Court.

These charges come thirty months after the two men were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and released on bail by a Jaffna Court. 

Thivakaran and Babilaraj were apprehended on May 3, 2021, when the Sri Lankan army conducted a large-scale search of the Jaffna University campus premises and the residence halls. The University administration had invited the army to conduct a search in order for it to be reopened following the terror attacks by alleged Islamists elsewhere in the island on Easter Sunday. 

Military raid inside Jaffna University, 2019

Hundreds of soldiers were deployed in the operation in which they found a photo of Velupillai Prabhakaran and other posters related to the Tamil genocide in the Students Union office. 

The army immediately arrested the two students who held major positions in the Union and surrendered them to Koppay police. It also handed over a petition to the police requesting that charges based on the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) be pressed against the Students Union representatives. A campus hospitality worker was also arrested on the basis that a photo of Thileepan was found in the dining area. 

The arrest provoked an outcry amongst the students of Jaffna University who went on a protest demanding the release of the Union President and Secretary. It also caused dismay in the wider Tamil civil society, not least because the draconian PTA was used against college students. 

Jaffna University students protest the arrest of their union leaders, May 2019

Former Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran argued that if charges must be brought against the students, they should be under regular laws and not the PTA. 

Following their arrest, Thivakaran and Babilaraj were produced in front of the Jaffna Magistrate at his residence. Subsequently, charges drawn from the PTA, Emergency Regulations and other laws were laid against them. 

The two student representatives were then placed under detention until the Jaffna High Court granted them bail 13 days later on May 16, 2021. 

The latest charges against Thivakaran and Babilaraj have been filed in the Colombo High Court more than thirty months after they were granted bail by the Jaffna High Court in 2019. 

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