SRI LANKA: Civil Society Condemn the Unlawful Arrest and Detention of Azath Salley and call for his immediate release -117 signed

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(Lanka-e-News-07.May.2013, 2.30PM) We the undersigned, vehemently condemn the arrest and detention of Former Deputy Mayor and General Secretary of the National Unity Alliance (NUA), Azath Salley, by a team of officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID), on Thursday, 2 May 2013 morning, and call for his immediate release in the absence of any demonstrable evidence.

Mr. Salley was arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and he has been placed under detention for further interrogation by the CID for 3 months under Section 2(1)(h) of the PTA. Section 2(1)(h) states that a person who has committed an offence under the PTA “….by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise causes or intends to cause commission of acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups…”

The unlawful arrest and detention of Mr. Salley is in a context where there have been increasing attacks and threats against minorities, a growing spate of incidents of religious intolerance, and clamping down of critics of the Government and dissent on the whole. Mr. Salley has been a vocal critic of the extremist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the anti–Muslim activities of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), and has been actively involved in efforts to initiate legal action against both groups. He has also promoted minorities to unite against the racist rhetoric and actions of such groups. In addition, Mr. Salley has been publicly critical of the indirect support given to these elements by the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

On 24 April 2013, in an interview to the Tamil Nadu bi-weekly magazine “Junior Vikatan”, Mr. Salley is alleged to have said that “the Muslims too should launch an armed struggle against the state in the same manner in which Tamils conducted a campaign earlier…(and) that such a struggle would commence once necessary arms are procured.” Mr. Salley has later written to the magazine stating that he was misquoted. The magazine published a correction on 4 May 2013.

Mr. Salley has been on a fast since his arrest on 2 May in protest against his unjust arrest, and demanding his release. Since his arrest, he has been moved from the 4th Floor of the CID to the National Hospital as he had collapsed due to lack of food, water and medication. There are concerns his condition can deteriorate if not urgently addressed, as he is a diabetic and in need of medication. He was initially refused visitors, including visits from his immediate family and lawyers, and was placed under heavy police guard. On 5 May, regardless of medical concerns, Mr. Salley had been moved back to the 4th Floor of the CID.

Mr. Salley had to be carried to the meeting room on the 4th Floor to meet with his lawyer yesterday (6). On seeing the deterioration in his condition, his lawyer had insisted that authorities re-hospitalize him immediately.

We may not agree with all of Mr. Salley’s political positions, however we are deeply concerned with the treatment meted towards him which seems to be a result of his position against hate propaganda and opposition to extremist groups. Whilst we recognize the responsibility of the State to investigate hate speech and other actions aimed at inciting communal disharmony, we wish to highlight the lack of fair and due process on the part of the State in the unlawful arrest and detention of Mr. Salley. Given the context and the charges, it would seem that Mr. Salley’s charges are politically motivated.

We also note the speed with which the Government and State actors acted on the arrest of Mr. Salley based on a misquoted interview. This is in a context of an increasing number of instances of hate speech and violence in Sri Lanka, with evidence publicly available identifying the perpetrators. Unfortunately, such incidents have not been independently investigated and perpetrators brought to account. Sadly, this incident is yet another reminder that the Government has resorted to strong-arm tactics to silence and harass critics, while turning a blind eye when actual incidents of violence occur. It is of serious concern as to the reasons for this unlawful arrest and the detention of Mr. Salley, and it sends a chilling reminder to all critics of the Government of reprisals.

We, the undersigned call for his immediate release.

Signed by:


1. Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe – Bishop Emeritus of Kurunagala, Anglican Church

2. Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris

3. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos

4. Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando

5. Rev. Fr. Samuel J. Ponniah

6. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

7. Rev. Fr. Sherard Jayawardane

8. Rev. Fr. Terrence Fernando

9. Rev. Jason J. Selvaraja – Senior Pastor, Assembly of God – Chavakachcheri

10. Rev. Sr. Deepa Fernando


11. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)

12. Interfaith Cooperation Forum

13. Women’s Action Network


14. A. Theva Rajan QSM – President, New Zealand Tamil Senior Citizens Association

15. Aaranya Rajasingam

16. Ahilan Kadirgamar

17. Aingkaran Kugathasan

18. Ainslie Joseph – Convenor, Christian Alliance for Social Action (CASA)

19. Amal de Chickera

20. Ameena Hussein

21. Ameer M Faaiz – Attorney-at-law

22. Anberiya Haniffa

23. Anushya Coomaraswamy

24. B. Gowthaman – Attorney-at-law

25. Balasingham Skanthakumar

26. Bhavani Fonseka

27. Bruce Van Voorhis

28. Chamindra Chathurinee

29. Chandra Jayaratne – Former Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

30. Chandraguptha Thenuwara – Artist

31. Deanne Uyangoda

32. Deshini Liyanaarachchi

33. Dinidu de Alwis

34. Dilshy Banu

35. Dinesh D. Dodamgoda

36. Dr. Anita Nesiah

37. Dr. Lionel Bopage

38. Dr. P. Setunga

39. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

40. Emil van der Poorten – Retiree & Community Activist

41. Faiz-ur Rahman

42. Farzana Haniffa

43. Farzath Faiz

44. Fawwazah Muhammad

45. Mohamed Raffai Mohamed Fouzi

46. Hans Billimoria

47. Hameed Abdul Karim

48. Imran Mohamed Ali

49. Infiyaz Mohamed Ali

50. Iromi Perera

51. Jayanthi Gunewardena

52. Jehan Perera

53. Jensila Majeed

54. Juwairiya Mohideen

55. K.J. Brito Fernando – President, Families of the Disappeared

56. K.S. Ratnavale

57. Kumaravadivel Guruparan

58. Kumari Kumaragamage

59. Kumi Samuel

60. Kusal Perera

61. Lal Wijenayake – Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP)

62. Lasantha Rahunuge – Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association

63. Latheef Farook

64. Mahaluxumy Kurushanthan

65. Manjula Gajanayake

66. Marisa de Silva

67. Mano Ganesan – Leader, Democratic People’s Front (DPF)

68. Mathuri Thamilmaran

69. Megara Tegal

70. Melani Manel Perera – Journalist

71. Melisha Yapa

72. Mirak Raheem

73. Mohamed Hisham

74. Mohamed Shammas

75. Muhammad Nasir

76. Nazli Mohamed Ali

77. Nicola Perera

78. Nigel V. Nugawela

79. Nirmanusan Balasundaram – Independent Journalist/Human Rights Advocate

80. Nishan de Mel – Economist

81. Niyanthini Kadirgamar – Researcher

82. Nooranie Muthaliph

83. P.N. Singham

84. Paba Deshapriya

85. Prabu Deepan

86. Priya Thangarajah

87. Prof. Jayantha Seneviratne – University of Kelaniya

88. Prof. Kumar David

89. R. Cheran

90. R.M.B. Senanayake

91. Rajani Chandra

92. Rohan Salgadoe

93. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera

94. Ruki Fernando – Human Rights Activist

95. Sabra Zahid

96. Sampath Samarakoon

97. Sanjaya Senanayake

98. Sanoon Mohideen

99. Sarala Emmanuel

100. Selvi Sachithanandam – Chairperson, Poornam Foundation

101. Selvy Thiruchandran

102. Shamala Kumar – University of Peradeniya

103. Shanthi Sachithanandam

104. Shehan de Alwis

105. Shehan Shakoor

106. Shreen Saroor

107. Siritunga Jayasuriya – United Socialist Party

108. Srinath Perera – Attorney-at-law

109. Sumathy Sivamohan

110. Sunanda Deshapriya

111. Sunil Jayasekera – Free Media Movement

112. Sunil Wijesiriwardena

113. Suren D. Perera – Activist & Attorney-at-law

114. Thiruni Kelegama

115. Udaya Kalupathirana – INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre

116. Uvais Mohamed Ali

117. Visaka Dharmadasa

Document Type : Forwarded Article
Document ID : AHRC-FAT-019-2013
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Judicial system, Right to food, Rule of law,