Attorney says Sri Lankan journalist jailed for 20 years to be released on bail pending appeal

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sri Lankan journalist jailed 20 years allowed bail

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A Sri Lankan journalist, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for supporting terrorism after he criticized the government, will be released on bail pending appeal, his attorney said Monday.

Jeyaprakash Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 after he wrote articles that accused the government of cutting off Tamil-majority areas from food and other essential items during its its military offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Government forces routed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam guerrillas in May last year, ending the country’s more than quarter-century civil war in which an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people died. U.N. documents estimated at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the final months of fighting.

In a speech in May, President Barack Obama singled out Tissainayagam as an example of persecuted journalists throughout the world.

M.A. Sumanthiran, an attorney for Tissainayagam, said an appeals court Monday ordered the journalist to surrender his passport and pay $500 bail. He is likely to be released Tuesday, he said.

Media rights groups have said Sri Lanka is among the most dangerous places for dissenting journalists.

Amnesty International has said at least 14 Sri Lankan journalists and media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006. Many have fled the country because of death threats. Some have been assaulted and others arrested.

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