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Sri Lanka - interview

Tamil editor arrested, as family fears abduction

Article published on the 2009-02-26 Latest update 2009-02-26 16:59 TU

Tamils demonstrate in New Delhi(Photo: Reuters)

Tamils demonstrate in New Delhi
(Photo: Reuters)

Sri Lankan police say that they have arrested the editor of two newspapers, after the man's family accused the authorities of abducting him. His brother-in-law told RFI that N Vidyatharan is being persecuted for fighting for the rights of the minority Tamil community.

Eyewitness: M Saravanapavan describes his brother-in-law's detention


The family sounded the alarm after Vidyatharan was taken away in a white van from the funeral of a realtive in a suburb of Colombo.

N Vidyatharan(Photo: RSF)

N Vidyatharan
(Photo: RSF)

Three police officers and three people in civilian clothes were in the van, his brother-in-law M Saravanapavan told RFI, adding that they dragged Vidyatharan away, fighting off family members who wanted to prevent them doing so.

"Here in Sri Lanka it’s very common, abductions take place in a white van," says Saravanapavan. "When you see a white van, people are scared. Every abduction, killing take place in the white vans."

Police have since declared that Vidyatharan has been arrested, although a senior officer was at first quoted in the state-run Daily News as saying that he had been abducted.

Paris-based press campaigners Reporters Without Borders have condemned the detention.

“Carried out without a warrant, this arrest was a violation of the
rule of law,” the group said in a statement. “The police must release
Vidyatharan without delay.

"What is this respected Tamil editor accused of? Outspoken coverage of the situation in Sri Lanka, including the fate of its Tamil population.”

Saravanapavan, who is editor-in-chief of one of Vidyatharan's titles, Uthayan, says that the government is cracking down on the Tamil press in the context of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"We, the Tamils and the Tamil newspaper, from the very first day for the last 25 years, democratically we are demanding our Tamils’ rights,' he says. "There is an armed struggle for the same reason."

But, he adds, "We have nothing to do with the arms."

There have been several attacks on the papers and the arrest comes seven weeks after another senior editor was shot dead by unidentified attackers in the same area.

According to official figures, nine journalists have been killed and 27 attacked in Sri Lanka over the past three years.