A prominent Muslim politician and government critic arrested today in Sri Lanka must be immediately released or charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence, Amnesty International said.
Azath Salley, the leader of Sri Lanka’s newly formed Muslim Tamil National Alliance, was reportedly taken into custody on Thursday morning by the intelligence services for unknown reasons.
Sally has been an outspoken critic of a Buddhist organization, Bodu Bala Sena, which has since February 2013 allegedly attacked Muslim and Christian religious establishments and agitated against certain religious practices. On 29 April he told journalists he was in hiding because he feared for his safety after receiving threats in state-run media.
“Azath Salley’s arrest, and the harassment he has faced over the past weeks, is indicative of the climate of fear government critics in Sri Lanka are forced to live under. He must be released immediately or charged with an internationally recognisable criminal offence,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
“He has been campaigning to end oppressive practices against minorities in Sri Lanka, in particular Muslims and Tamils, for which he has faced the ire of the Sri Lankan government.
“Salley appears to be the latest victim in the intensifying crackdown on dissenting views we have seen in recent years, motivated by the government’s desire to tighten its grip on power. Journalists, the judiciary, human rights workers and opposition politicians like Salley are among those who have been targeted through threats, harassment and vicious violent attacks.”
The Sri Lankan government remains set to host the Commonwealth Summit in November despite calls by Amnesty International and others for it to be relocated.
“Commonwealth leaders must take a stronger stand against the government’s violent repression of dissent and its persistent failure to bring to justice those responsible for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Truscott. *Amnesty International Press releases (Colombotelegraph)
Former Deputy Mayor of the Colombo Municipal Council Azath Sally was arrested last morning from a hideout in Kolonnawa, for allegedly attempting to stoke the fires of ‘ethnic and religious strife and harm national unity.’
Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) Director General Lakshman Hulugalle said Azath Sally was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department following several complaints received by the CID regarding conduct which could damage ethnic harmony, and harm national unity
Speaking to the media, Hulugalle said that Sally was arrested ‘when he was absconding’, at premises No 25, Gamini Road, Sadamulla in Kolonnawa though his residence is at Number 6, Flower Road, Colombo 6. He was taken into custody under Section 120 of the Penal Code and provisions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Hulugalle said that Sally had violated clause 21 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and section 120 of the Penal Code. He (Sally) had incited people with the aim of causing damage to ethnic and religious harmony, in the guise of agitating against the government.
The MCNS Director General further said that no ethnic or religious unrest has been reported under the leadership of the present President.
Furthermore, it is the prime duty of the government to safeguard ethnic and religious harmony and no one will be allowed to cause friction between different religious groups and ethnicities.
Sally is being questioned by the CID under a detention order. (Lakbimanews)