The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Friday, 9 May 2008

UK transfers renegade Tamil Tiger

A former leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels who was jailed in the UK in January has been transferred to an immigration detention centre.
Col Karuna was sent to jail in January for identity fraud after being arrested in London late last year.He was carrying an apparently genuine Sri Lankan diplomatic passport issued under a false name.It is not clear if he will be deported. Human rights groups want him charged with war crimes.The British Home Office refused to give details of Col Karuna's case.A spokeswoman would only tell the BBC that he "remains detained under immigration powers".He had served half of a nine-month sentence after being found guilty of identity fraud.Col Karuna's lawyer, David Phillips, says he has not claimed asylum so far and although he could apply from the detention centre his chances would not be very high because he failed to declare his intention to seek asylum immediately upon arrival in the UK.

British 'concern'

During his UK court case, Col Karuna said he had received the false diplomatic passport from the Sri Lankan government.He said the defence secretary in Colombo, who is also the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had arranged the documents for him.Col Karuna, whose real name is V Muralitharan, was arrested on 2 November at a flat in the London district of Kensington.The British Foreign Office said in December that it had told the Sri Lankan government of its "concern" at how Col Karuna had acquired a diplomatic passport under a false name.Sri Lanka's government denies it has any links to Col Karuna.

Fighting intensified

Col Karuna is one of the most controversial figures in Sri Lanka's prolonged civil war.He was the commander of the Tamil Tiger rebels in eastern Sri Lanka until 2004, when he changed sides and started fighting alongside government forces.Troops under his command - both before and after he changed sides - are accused of torture, murder and the recruitment of child soldiers.Human rights groups have urged the British government to try him for war crimes. But they say witnesses have been unwilling to come forward to testify against him.Both the Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan military have faced repeated accusations of gross human rights abuses.Fighting in the north of the island this year has intensified after the army drove the rebels out of their eastern strongholds last year.

In January the government formally withdrew from a ceasefire which both sides were supposed to be observing, even though fighting grew steadily worse last year.

Source: BBC