Monday, March 29, 2010

Sri Lanka: Arrest of Muslim author 'illegal'

Lawyers for the Muslim author arrested on charges of anti-state activities accuse Sri Lankan authorities of illegal arrest and detention.

Alex Fernando, counsel for Sarah Malani Perera, told BBC Sandeshaya that he is yet to be informed of the reasons for the arrest.

"She too has not been informed of any reasons for the arrest," he said.

Mrs. Perera, who converted from Buddhism to Islam, was forced to remove the face veil by the officers at Mirihana police station, he said.

A family friend who wished to be anonymous told the BBC that "they had made a video out of it and they were taking photographs against her will."

Religious harassment

But the police spokesman said that he was not aware of such harassment.

Superintendant of Police (SP) Prishantha Jayakody told BBC Sandeshaya that Mrs. Perera has been detained under a detention order (DO) for anti-state activity.

"If there is an accusation against the police, they can lodge a complaint with senior police authorities," he said.

But Mr. Fernando says he is yet to see any documentary evidence of such an order despite repeated requests from the police.

Mrs. Perera, who is a resident in the Gulf state of Bahrain, had recently written two books on her conversion, in Sinhala, the language of Sri Lanka's ethnic majority who are mostly Buddhists.

She was detained when on a three-month holiday in her country of origin.

BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that Buddhist nationalism is an influential force in Sri Lanka and the party in question is part of the government coalition.

Sri Lankan Muslims are regarded as the third ethnic group here and occupy a respected and prominent position in society. But accounts of conversions from Buddhism to Islam are rare.

© BBC Sinhala

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