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Tamil Tiger fundraiser pleads guilty in Canada

[AFP, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 09:32 No Comment]

A fundraiser for the outlaw Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers pleaded guilty here Tuesday in the first case to be prosecuted under Canada?s terrorism financing laws.

Prapaharan Thambithurai "pleaded guilty to providing financial services, knowing that they will benefit a terrorist group, namely the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)," Nathalie Houle, of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, told AFP.

The Tamil Tigers, outlawed in Sri Lanka, battled with the Sri Lankan government for three decades until they were crushed in 2009.

Police arrested Thambithurai, 46, in this Pacific coast metropolis in early 2008. He was released on bail days later.

Sentencing is scheduled for Friday, with the maximum penalty 10 years in prison.

In court on Tuesday the prosecutor recommended a two-year jail term, while defense lawyer Kathleen Bradley asked for a three-year conditional sentence.

Fund-raising for the LTTE’s cause was banned under terrorism laws in many countries, and they have been successfully prosecuted for 27 years in Italy, Germany, France and Australia for collecting a "war tax" from expatriates, said terrorism expert John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute.

"It just took Canada a long time," Thompson said.

Canada revise legislation against fund-raising for terrorists only after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Thompson told AFP, "and then it wasn’t illegal until the Tamil Tigers got placed on the terrorism list in 2006."

He said LTTE supporters "asked" most families of Tamil heritage in Canada for money, ranging from 30 dollars to 2,000 dollars per month. "The coercement was often quite subtle … three big people on your front step, with your children home," he said.

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