Two LTTE operatives indicted in US Court under material support law

Saturday, 29 December 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Asian Tribune: Piratheepan Nadarajah (36) and Suresh Sriskandarajah (32), two alleged operatives of Sri Lanka’s now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a US-designated foreign terrorist organization popularly referred to as the Tamil Tigers, were arraigned Thursday, 27 December before United States Magistrate at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York following their extradition from Canada.

The two men, who were born in Sri Lanka and became naturalised Canadian citizens, had been sought by the United States since 2006. Each has been charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Tamil Tigers, a law that was upheld by the US Supreme Court last year when LTTE operatives in the US challenged it, after their separatist military movement was defeated three years ago after more than 25 years of insurgency.

The men’s fight against extradition ended this month after the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed their appeals, clearing the way for them to be sent to the United States. Two Tamil-Canadians pleaded not guilty to criminal charges before a Brooklyn judge on Thursday, years after US prosecutors first accused them of ties to the Sri Lankan terrorist organisation the Tamil Tigers.

A decade ago the Tamil Tigers were on their way to carving out a separate state within Sri Lanka. But the guerrillas’ continued use of suicide bombings, child soldiers and political assassinations led the Canadian, US and European governments to blacklist the movement as terrorists – and take steps to cut them off from their supporters in the global Tamil refugee Diaspora.

The 26-year-old civil war ended in 2009 when the Sri Lankan Government army vanquished the Tigers.

In 1997, the LTTE was designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation and therefore may not legally raise money or procure equipment or materials in the United States.

In 2006, US prosecutors first alleged that Sriskandarajah and Nadarajah were Canadian cogs in the Tigers’ global procurement machine.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said Nadarajah and several co-conspirators had engaged in negotiations in 2006 with an undercover F.B.I. agent to buy twenty SA-18 heat-seeking missiles, 10 missile launchers and 500 AK-47 assault rifles. The other defendant, Suresh Sriskandarajah, assisted Tamil officials in researching and acquiring aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software and communications equipment, a criminal complaint charged.

Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, said the defendants “were part of the cycle of sophisticated arms and large sums of money that fuelled” the Tamil Tigers, an organisation that authorities said had used suicide bombings and political assassinations.

Nadarajah and Sriskandarajah were both wearing khaki jumpsuits and were cuffed at the ankles when they entered not-guilty pleas before Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom. A bail hearing was set for 9 January.