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‘Expedite the case or hang me to death!’ - Tamil political prisoner writes to Sri Lankan president

Kanagasabai Devadasan, a Tamil political prisoner from Colombo who has spent 12 years in jail has written a letter to Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, requesting him to expedite the court hearing of an appeal he had filed against the allegations that incarcerated him or otherwise raise his sentence to capital punishment and "hang him immediately".  

"I, Kanagasabai Devadasan, 63, have been imprisoned for 12 years on the basis of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Colombo High Court ordered a 20 years and life-time imprisonment sentence for the HC 6194/12 and HC 5638/11 cases filed against me," Devadasan wrote in his missive. 

Apprising the President that he had appealed against the judgement, Devadasan highlighted the dither and delay that characterised court proceedings vis-à-vis his case. 

"With an intention to bring it (the hearing) to an end expeditiously, I have been advocating for myself in both cases. Still, the hearing of both cases have been totally disrupted due to the unnecessary delay caused by court procedures and the coronavirus," Devadasan lamented. 

As a result, Devadasan emphasised in his letter that he has been denied the right to prove his innocence in the court of law and said that ‘my fundamental rights are being blatantly violated.’ 

Also pointing out Rajapaksa's lack of response to his previous, private request, Devadasan explained the reason why he felt the need to make this letter public. "I wrote a letter to you from prison six months ago, explaining my situation. Unfortunately, I have still not received a response to it. Hence, due to the lack of any other option, I make this letter public." 

Subsequently, laying out his requests to Rajapaksa, Devadasan asked the Sri Lankan president to pass an order expediting the hearing of his appeal in the courts. "Otherwise," he wrote, "allow me to obtain bail for these two cases."

"Should you believe it is not within your powers to fulfill these two requests," Devadasan proceeded, "please use the powers granted to you by the constitution to raise my sentence to capital punishment, brand me a ‘“war-criminal” and order that I be hanged in public immediately."

Devadasan ended his letter by requesting that no one try to dissuade him from the decision he has made. "I need justice or death. That is all."

The draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) has been used by the Sri Lankan government as a tool to oppress Tamils. Devadasan’s plight signifies the abysmal conditions of the Sri Lankan criminal justice system, especially the prisons, that overtly disfavours Tamils. It is also indicative of the atrophy of Sri Lankan judiciary which has served to disadvantage Tamils over the Sinhalese. 


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