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5 Dutch Tamils go on trial accused of funding ‘terror group’ Tamil Tigers in civil war

[The Washington Post, Friday, 16 September 2011 08:20 One Comment]

Five Sri Lankans accused of supporting the Tamil Tiger rebels in their country’s 26-year civil war went on trial in a Dutch court Thursday, in a case that hinges on whether judges rule that the Tigers were legitimate freedom fighters or terrorists.

Prosecutors accuse the men — all ethnic Tamils who live in the Netherlands — of illegally funding the group, which has been branded a terrorist group by the European Union, and membership of an international terror organization.

But a lawyer for two of the suspects said the men were just collecting money for Tamil victims of the bloody conflict and rejected the assertion that the Tamil Tigers, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE, is a terror group.

Instead, he drew comparisons with Libyan fighters who battled to oust Moammar Gadhafi and received support from the international community.

“There has not been any proper legal debate about whether the LTTE is a terrorist organization or whether they are a group such as the Libyan rebels now,” defense attorney Victor Koppe said outside court.

Thursday’s hearing opened with a judge reading out transcripts of interviews with witnesses while the five suspects sat listening through headsets to simultaneous translations.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are expected to lay out their cases later this month and a verdict is likely toward the end of October.

Koppe said if the three-judge panel at the Hague District Court rejects the terror label, “then the whole case falls apart. Then what you have is legitimate support to freedom fighters. Exactly like everybody now is supporting the Libyan rebels.”

The Sri Lanka war ended in May 2009 when government troops crushed the rebels and killed their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The rebels had been fighting to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.

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One Comment »

  • Velu Balendran said:

    So far no one has been able to define terrorism, especially in the context of a liberation struggle for self determination. I suspect the movers and shakers of the world will allow a definition lest it thwarts their freedom to discriminate whom to support and whom not to.

    Powerful countries generally do not approve of liberation struggles (unless there is oil or other gainful interests involved). Therefore they show no hesitation to whitewash liberation struggles with the pejorative term of terrorism in an attempt to delegitimize the struggle. Unjust it may be, but that is the harsh reality. The proscription of Tigers that follows as a corollary was for purely political reasons is undeniable.

    Therefore if Tigers are to be exonerated from the charges of terrorism, one wonders whether any ground realities have shifted, which I suspect have not.

    If there were any doubts as to the even handedness of the international community, the post war years have confirmed these doubts beyond question, and has shown that not only the Lankan govt that acts with impunity, but the international community too, by its selective administering of justice. Take for instance the satellite hi-res war footage with the US or the info on LRRP/DPU involvement in the last stages of the war. Why doesn’t the US publish these evidences in support of as war crimes? Yes if it is Gaddafi but no if it is Mahinda, as business gets done with him, is the attitude of the US. Cameron’s UK govt essentially has no qualms about the war (but will make noises for electoral purposes).

    The Tamils have known that Mahinda is unjust because of his chauvinism. That is understandable. But they have belatedly learned that the international community is equally unjust because of its boundless greed. That is shocking! No more live and let live; more like live or die.

    Despite all the negatives I have been pointing, I wish the judges will take an unbiased view. If not, this will be another nail to the coffin of international justice and Tamil aspirations.