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(December 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) As the world celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, journalist, J.S. Tissainayagam, publisher, N. Jesiharan, and his wife, V. Valarmathy, begin their tenth month in prison.

On 1st January 2009, as the world celebrates the dawn of a new year, it would be 300 days in detention.

We, the under-signed, call upon the Sri Lankan authorities to prove their commitment to human rights on this day by dropping all charges against them and granting their immediate and unconditional release.

They are held in poor conditions with no access to proper medical facilities. Jesiharan has alleged he was tortured and subject to sleep deprivation for days while in custody. Tissainayagam will lose his eye-sight if he is not treated and Valarmathy is in urgent need of specialist medical care. Throughout this ordeal their families have been threatened and ordered to stay silent.

Tissainayagam, Jesiharan and Valarmathy have been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which has been universally condemned for its flagrant violation of internationally recognised human rights standards since it was first enacted in 1979. Popular Sunday Times journalist Tissainayagam is one of the few Sri Lankan writers to be charged under the PTA in its 30 years of existence. Jesiharan and Valarmathy are charged with aiding and abetting him.

The case for the prosecution relies on the confessions of the accused which raises serious legal concerns, not least in light of the allegations of torture. The only material evidence relates to two articles written by Tissainayagam in the North East Monthly in 2006 criticising the conduct of the government forces in the war against the LTTE and the impact of the war on civilians.

There have been a series of legal and procedural irregularities related to the trying of the case, the arrest, detention and provision of evidence and documentation. Senior government figures are accused of direct interference in the judicial process. The prisoners have not had regular, private access to legal counsel or visits by their families.

In effect, Tissainayagam has been criminalised, retro-actively, for his writing and for pursuing his chosen profession as an independent journalist and editor.

We call upon the Sri Lankan authorities to act now to bring this disturbing miscarriage of justice to an end and to reaffirm its commitment to human rights, press freedom, freedom of speech and freedom from arbitrary arrest.

We call for the immediate and unconditional release of J.S. Tissainayagam, N. Jasiharan and V. Valamathy.

Signed by :

Dr. Hameeda Hossain - Director Aino Salish Kendra (ASK), Dhaka, Bangladesh
Dr. Hanif Lakdawal - Social Activist and Co-Founder, Sanchetna, Ahmedabad
Prof. Salima Hashmi - Dean, School of Visual Arts, Beacon House National University, Lahore, Pakistan
Vrinda Grover (Lawyer) India
I.A Rehman Director Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
David.B.S.Jeyaraj (Journalist)
Prof. Qadri Ismail (University of Minnesota)
Frances Harrison, Journalist, BBC World Service
Mandira Sharma, Executive Director, Advocacy Forum-Nepal
Sushil Pyakurel, Former Commissioner, National Human Rights Commission – Nepal
Sr. Patricia Fernando FMM
Sr. Beafrius D.S
Rev. Fr. Noel Dias
Rev. Fr. S. M. Selvaratnam, OMI
Fr.Anton Jayananda Fernando
Milruk Pradeep Fernando
N. Fernando
W. Fernando
A. Fernando
M.S.P.P Fernando
Shantha Fernando
H.Vijaya Joseph
S.A Priyangani
M.K.K Jyayaweera
K.A Shanika Dinushi
P.A Doniae Fernanado
Sarath Fernando
Wasantha Ranil
Parasad Dharasana
Eric Nishantha
Erantha Srinath
Kuppusami Naidu
Niranjala Ratnayake
Manori Muthetuwagama
K.J.Britto Fernando
K.T.R Fernando
D.A.D.N.C Wimalaratna
Shantha .D.Pathirana
Mareen Sriruika
Lakshan Dias, Attorney at Law
Sampath Pushpakumara, Attorney at Law
Sudarshana Gunawardene, Attorney at Law
Sunila Abeysekera, Human Rights activist
Dr. Mario Gomez, Human Rights Lawyer
Dr. Anita Nesiah
Dr. Jehan Perera, Political Columnist and Peace Activist
Freddy Gamage, Center for peoples Dialogue, Negombo
Faizun Zackariya, Centre for Development Initiatives
Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, Convener FMM
Rukshana Nanayakkara - Deputy Executive Director, Tansparency International
B. Skanthakumar, Law & Society Trust
Ruki Fernando, Law & Society Trust
Association of War Affected Women
Centre for Policy Alternatives
Home for Human Rights
INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
Rights Now Collective for Democracy
Women and Media Collective
Human Rights Watch
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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