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Court postpones case against Tamil journalist

Thavaseelan. April 20, 2019 

The Mullaitivu court postponed the case against the Tamil Guardian correspondent, Shanmugam Thavaseelan, until September 10. 

At the hearing yesterday, Thavaseelan's lawyer argued the complainant, the Sri Lankan Navy, had put forward a false accusation. 

Having heard the arguments, the judge postponed the case and ordered the Navy member concerned to present before the court. 

Thavaseelan was arrested on Saturday morning by Sri Lankan police for allegedly assaulting and causing injury to the complainant - a navy officer from the ‘Gotabaya’ camp in Mullaitivu who had been threatening and photographing protesters at a disappearances rally earlier this month.

Thavaseelan, a prominent Mullaitivu-based journalist was arrested after being questioned by Mullaitivu police on Friday, and later released on bail.

The journalist's lawyers argued that the allegations leading to his arrest were fabricated and part of a targeted campaign of harassment and intimidation.

The arrest recepit, which lays out the charges, Thavaseelan.

A confrontation had occurred at the rally earlier this month when the individual, a Sri Lankan navy officer, was spotted taking photographs of protestors and asked to identify himself. He was prevented from escaping by the crowds at the rally and identified himself as a navy officer. Thavaseelan had been present at the rally and had questioned the navy officer on behalf of the protesters.

Mullaitivu police were called to the scene, but after they did not turn up, the crowds escorted the officer to the nearby Gotabhaya navy camp and asked personnel there to confirm his identity.

File photo: Thavaseelan

Thavaseelan had stated earlier this week that the police complaint, which the journalist maintained was based on false allegations, was likely an act of revenge from the officer.

The same journalist has been subject to consistent threats and harassment in recent years. Last year Thavaseelan was temporarily detained and threatened by army officers while investigating an army land grab of a destroyed LTTE cemetery in Alampil. He had been detained for refusing to hand over his camera. The Sri Lankan army had been forced to admit and attempt to downplay the incident after being questioned by the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission.

Thavaseelan’s local media colleagues said that journalists still worked under a climate of fear, stating that military forces with the backing of Mullaitivu police were extremely vindictive in targeting journalists and activists who exposed the realities of the district, especially militarisation and Sinhalisation.

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