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Tamil trio accused of terrorism free on bonds – The Age

[MISC, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 16:54 No Comment]

Sivarajah Yathavan and Arumugam Rajeevan leave the Melbourne Supreme Court. Photo: John Woudstra A MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR investigation into three Australian Tamil men accused of terrorism offences has ended with them being released on good behaviour bonds, in a blow to the Australian Federal Police.

The men were arrested in 2007 and accused of being members and providing funds to the Tamil Tigers, but the charges were dropped after a Supreme Court judge attacked the AFP for bungling its two-year investigation, including arresting one of the men at gunpoint despite having no legal basis to do so.

They were sentenced yesterday after pleading guilty to the lesser offence of sending money to a terrorist organisation, under a little-used act that makes it an offence to provide an asset to a terrorist organisation proscribed by the UN Security Council.

Supporters packed the court and hugged the men after they were sentenced to suspended jail terms, and released on condition they pay $1000 bonds and be of good behaviour.

Sydney man Arumugan Rajeevan, 44, and Melbourne men Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, 35, and Sivarajah Yathavan, 39, each pleaded guilty to a single charge of providing money to the Tamil Tigers under the Charter of the United Nations Act.

Justice Paul Coghlan said the men – who collected money from the Tamil community in Australia and sent it to the separatist group in Sri Lanka – knew the Tamil Tigers ”had the reputation of a terrorist organisation” but did not accept the characterisation.

He said while the men acted out of a desire to help the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and believed dealing with the Tamil Tigers was the only way to do so, they had been reckless about the possibility of the funds being misused.

Justice Coghlan said the UN charter offence was ”unusual” in that it made criminal in Australia conduct that had effect elsewhere.

”The present provisions are a direct response to Australia’s international responsibilities. It should, however, be observed that the [Tamil Tigers] has never actually been declared a terrorist organisation in Australia, although that was a matter within the power of the government,” he said.

Justice Coghlan noted that the men knew the Tamil Tigers had been declared a terrorist organisation elsewhere and were working to prevent such a declaration being made in Australia.

Justice Coghlan said he accepted prosecution submissions casting the role of the men as ”members and controllers” of the Tamil Tigers in Australia.

”I do not [go] so far as saying they were members of a terrorist organisation but in sending funds to the [Tamil Tigers] they took the risk that the funds were being used inappropriately, whatever their belief and desire was,” he said.

Justice Coghlan said a second charge to which Vinayagamoorthy pleaded guilty, of providing $97,000 worth of electronic equipment to the Tamil Tigers, had caused him ”the most anguish”.

He said at least one of the parts had ended up in a landmine, but accepted that Vinayagamoorthy may not have intended that to occur and said in his record of interview he thought they were going to the police.

Outside court, Rajeevan said: ”The Tamils in Sri Lanka cannot expect justice from the Sri Lankan government but today we have received justice from the Australian justice system.”

The men’s lawyer, Rob Stary, compared the Tamil struggle to ”the Fretilin struggle in East Timor or the ANC [African National Congress] struggle in South Africa”.

”This was a civil war. Why the Australian government was acting at the behest of the Sri Lankan government no one will ever know.”

Another defence lawyer estimated that $10 million had been spent in Australia to prosecute the men.

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