Udaya Gammanpila, a government spokesman, has claimed that there are no Tamil political prisoners as “those arrested in the North and East are detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act on terrorism charges and cannot be deemed as political prisoners”.
Earlier this year, Sellapillai Mahendran, the longest-serving Tamil political prisoner died in prison. Mahendran was arrested at the age of 17 in 1993 under allegations that he had been connected to the killing of 600 police officers in the East when he was just 14. Two years after his initial arrest he was sentenced to 70 years in prison and life imprisonment based on a confession produced following a month of torture in detention. Despite his successful appeal to reduce his sentence to 10-years, his life sentence was ultimately upheld. Mahrendran’s parents have stated that they were never told the reason for his conviction.
Eelam Tamils have consistently demanded the release of Tamil political prisoners over the years and the end of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which enables Sri Lankan authorities to detain without charge and has been linked to torture.
Despite the Sri Lankan government pledging to the to repeal the legislation, and being granted a favourable trading relationship in exchange, the current administration has since abandoned such promises.
Earlier this month Kanagasabai Devadasan, a Tamil political prisoner, who has spent 12 years in jail wrote to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Devadasan requested the president 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”.