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Condemn the Unlawful Arrest and Detention of Azath Salley and Call for his Immediate Release

Public Statement / 7 May, 2013
We the undersigned, vehemently condemn the arrest and detention of Former Deputy  Mayor and General Secretary of the National Unity Alliance (NUA), Azath Salley, by a team of officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID), on Thursday, 2 May 2013 morning, and call for his immediate release in the absence of any demonstrable evidence.

Mr. Salley was arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and he has been placed under detention for further interrogation by the CID for 3 months under Section 2(1)(h) of the PTA. Section 2(1)(h) states that a person who has committed an offence under the PTA “….by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise causes or intends to cause commission of acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups…”

The unlawful arrest and detention of Mr. Salley is in a context where there have been increasing attacks and threats against minorities, a growing spate of incidents of religious intolerance, and clamping down of critics of the Government and dissent on the whole. Mr. Salley has been a vocal critic of the extremist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the anti–Muslim activities of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), and has been actively involved in efforts to initiate legal action against both groups. He has also promoted minorities to unite against the racist rhetoric and actions of such groups. In addition, Mr. Salley has been publicly critical of the indirect support given to these elements by the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

On 24 April 2013, in an interview to the Tamil Nadu bi-weekly magazine “Junior Vikatan”, Mr. Salley is alleged to have said that “the Muslims too should launch an armed struggle against the state in the same manner in which Tamils conducted a campaign earlier…(and) that such a struggle would commence once necessary arms are procured.” Mr. Salley has later written to the magazine stating that he was misquoted. The magazine published a correction on 4 May 2013.

Mr. Salley has been on a fast since his arrest on 2 May in protest against his unjust arrest, and demanding his release. Since his arrest, he has been moved from the 4th Floor of the CID to the National Hospital as he had collapsed due to lack of food, water and medication. There are concerns his condition can deteriorate if not urgently addressed, as he is a diabetic and in need of medication. He was initially refused visitors, including visits from his immediate family and lawyers, and was placed under heavy police guard. On 5 May, regardless of medical concerns, Mr. Salley had been moved back to the 4th Floor of the CID. 2

Mr. Salley’s had to be carried to the meeting room on the 4th Floor to meet with his lawyer yesterday (6). On seeing the deterioration in his condition, his lawyer had insisted that authorities re-hospitalize him immediately.

We may not agree with all of Mr. Salley’s political positions, however we are deeply concerned with the treatment meted towards him which seems to be a result of his position against hate propaganda and opposition to extremist groups. Whilst we recognize the responsibility of the State to investigate hate speech and other actions aimed at inciting communal disharmony, we wish to highlight the lack of fair and due process on the part of the State in the unlawful arrest and detention of Mr. Salley. Given the context and the charges, it would seem that Mr. Salley’s charges are politically motivated.

We also note the speed with which the Government and State actors acted on the arrest of Mr. Salley based on a misquoted interview. This is in a context of an increasing number of instances of hate speech and violence in Sri Lanka, with evidence publicly available identifying the perpetrators. Unfortunately, such incidents have not been independently investigated and perpetrators brought to account. Sadly, this incident is yet another reminder that the Government has resorted to strong-arm tactics to silence and harass critics, while turning a blind eye when actual incidents of violence occur. It is of serious concern as to the reasons for this unlawful arrest and the detention of Mr. Salley, and it sends a chilling reminder to all critics of the Government of reprisals.
We, the undersigned call for his immediate release.

Signed by: Clergy
1. Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe – Bishop of Colombo, Anglican Church
2. Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris
3. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
4. Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando
5. Rev. Fr. Samuel J. Ponniah
6. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
7. Rev. Fr. Sherard Jayawardane
8. Rev. Fr. Terrence Fernando
9. Rev. Jason J. Selvaraja – Senior Pastor, Assembly of God – Chavakachcheri
10. Rev. Sr. Deepa Fernando

11. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
12. Interfaith Cooperation Forum
13. Women’s Action Network

14. A. Theva Rajan QSM – President, New Zealand Tamil Senior Citizens Association
15. Aaranya Rajasingam
16. Ahilan Kadirgamar
17. Aingkaran Kugathasan
18. Ainslie Joseph – Convenor, Christian Alliance for Social Action (CASA)
19. Amal de Chickera
20. Ameena Hussein
21. Ameer M Faaiz – Attorney-at-law
22. Anberiya Haniffa
23. Anushya Coomaraswamy
24. B. Gowthaman – Attorney-at-law
25. Balasingham Skanthakumar
26. Bhavani Fonseka
27. Bruce Van Voorhis
28. Caryll Perera
29. Chamindra Chathurinee
30. Chandra Jayaratne – Former Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce
31. Chandraguptha Thenuwara – Artist
32. Deanne Uyangoda
33. Deshini Liyanaarachchi
34. Dinidu de Alwis
35. Dilshy Banu
36. Dinesh D. Dodamgoda
37. Dr. Anita Nesiah
38. Dr. Lionel Bopage
39. Dr. P. Setunga
40. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
41. Emil van der Poorten – Retiree & Community Activist
42. Faiz-ur Rahman
43. Farzana Haniffa
44. Farzath Faiz
45. Fawwazah Muhammad
46. Mohamed Raffai Mohamed Fouzi
47. Hans Billimoria
48. Hameed Abdul Karim
49. Imran Mohamed Ali
50. Infiyaz Mohamed Ali
51. Iromi Perera
52. Jayanthi Gunewardena
53. Jehan Perera
54. Jensila Majeed
55. Juwairiya Mohideen
56. K.J. Brito Fernando – President, Families of the Disappeared
S. Ratnavale
58. Kumaravadivel Guruparan
59. Kumari Kumaragamage
60. Kumi Samuel
61. Kusal Perera
62. Lal Wijenayake – Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP)
63. Lasantha Rahunuge – Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association
64. Latheef Farook
65. Mahaluxumy Kurushanthan
66. Manjula Gajanayake
67. Marisa de Silva
68. Mano Ganesan – Leader, Democratic People’s Front (DPF)
69. Mathuri Thamilmaran
70. Megara Tegal
64. Latheef Farook
65. Mahaluxumy Kurushanthan
66. Manjula Gajanayake
67. Marisa de Silva
68. Mano Ganesan – Leader, Democratic People’s Front (DPF)
69. Mathuri Thamilmaran
70. Megara Tegal

71. Melani Manel Perera – Journalist
72. Melisha Yapa
73. Mirak Raheem
74. Mohamed Hisham
75. Mohamed Shammas
76. Muhammad Nasir
77. Nazli Mohamed Ali
78. Nicola Perera
79. Nigel V. Nugawela
80. Nirmanusan Balasundaram – Independent Journalist/Human Rights Advocate
81. Nishan de Mel – Economist

82. Niyanthini Kadirgamar – Researcher
83. Nooranie Muthaliph
84. P.N. Singham
85. Paba Deshapriya
86. Prabu Deepan
87. Priya Thangarajah
88. Prof. Jayantha Seneviratne – University of Kelaniya
89. Prof. Kumar David
90. R. Cheran
91. R.M.B. Senanayake
92. Rajani Chandra
93. Rohan Salgadoe
94. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera
95. Sabra Zahid
96. Sampath Samarakoon
97. Sanjaya Senanayake
98. Sanoon Mohideen
99. Sarala Emmanuel
100. Selvi Sachithanandam – Chairperson, Poornam Foundation
101. Selvy Thiruchandran
102. Shamala Kumar – University of Peradeniya
103. Shanthi Sachithanandam
104. Shehan de Alwis
105. Shehan Shakoor
106. Shreen Saroor
107.Siritunga Jayasuriya – United Socialist Party
108. Srinath Perera – Attorney-at-law
109. Sumathy Sivamohan
110. Sunanda Deshapriya
111. Sunil Jayasekera – Free Media Movement
112. Sunil Wijesiriwardena
113. Suren D. Perera – Activist & Attorney-at-law
114. Thiruni Kelegama
115. Udaya Kalupathirana – INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
116. Uvais Mohamed Ali
117. Visaka Dharmadasa


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