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Sri Lanka 23 March 2007

Army said to be holding tamil journalist who went missing five weeks ago

(JPEG) Following the police chief’s recent admission that the security forces have been involved in abductions, Reporters Without Borders today said it was in a position to affirm that the military participated in the arrest of journalist Subramaniam Ramachandran on 15 February north of Jaffna. Colleagues think he is now being held secretly at a military camp.

"We appeal to the authorities to take action to locate and Ramachandran and have him released," the press freedom organisation said. "The fact that the government publicly acknowledges the participation of the security forces in kidnapping and forced disappearance is very worrying, but at the same time gives us hope that Ramachandran is still alive."

Prior to his abduction in the Vadamaradchi area to the north of Jaffna, Ramachandran had written for the Tamil daily Yarl Thinakural about the involvement of a businessman and military officers in sand illegal trafficking. His stories gave such details as the licence numbers of the vehicles involved and the businessman’s connections with certain officers. Following their publication, a judge intervened and ordered the confiscation of a vehicle used in the trafficking. At the same time, Tamil Tigers torched another vehicle used by the traffickers. All this angered the businessman and the soldiers concerned.

Ramachandran seems to have been threatened by the Tamil Tigers in the past for having good relations with members of the security forces. The LTTE intelligence services are said to have investigated him in November 2006 after he took photos of a meeting organised in honour of its top leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. But colleagues said he was no longer under threat from the LTTE at the time of his kidnapping.

The circumstances of his disappearance establish beyond any doubt that the army was involved. Accompanied by a friend, he left the school he runs in Karaveddy at around 6 p.m. on 15 February. When they arrived next to the Kalikai Junction military camp, soldiers ordered them to stop for questioning. Ramachandran was taken into the camp while his friend was asked to leave.

According to witness, a vehicle containing a military intelligence officer, two members of the EPDP (a pro-government Tamil militia) and an army informer arrived one hour later, and then left a few minutes after that with Ramachandran. His family has had no word of him since then. Several Jaffna-based journalists say he is being held in a military camp in the north of the island.




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