The Sri Lankan government has asked the United States to abandon the prosecution of a Canadian charged with buying equipment and laundering money for the LTTE, Canada’s National Post newspaper reported.
The extraordinary request, in a letter sent to the U.S. State Department, concerns Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32, who was extradited to New York in December to stand trial on terrorism charges.
The letter, which surfaced at Mr. Suresh’s bail hearing last month, urged the U.S. to drop the charges against Mr. Suresh “in light of his publicly recognized efforts to secure a lasting, peaceful reconciliation for the Tamil people,” wrote Judge Raymond Dearie of the U.S. District Court.
“Given the history of Sri Lanka’s prolonged and bitter conflict, the request is indeed an extraordinary initiative that evidences Suresh’s legitimate and admirable work to secure a lasting and just resolution of the tragic conflict.”
However the National Post reported that U.S. prosecutors are proceeding with the case, and the judge ruled the letter was not relevant to the bail proceedings, ordering Suresh to be held in custody for the duration of the trial.
The judge also denied bail to a second Canadian, Piratheepan Nadarajah, 36, who faces terrorism charges for his alleged role in a plot to buy $1-million worth of AK-47 assault rifles and surface-to-air missiles for the LTTE.
Both men were arrested in Toronto following a joint RCMP-FBI investigation called Project O-Needle. They were extradited to the U.S. in late 2012 after the Supreme Court of Canada rejected their appeals.
The U.S. court documents do not explain why Sri Lanka intervened in Suresh’s trial, but several sources said the government had been attempting to use those arrested in the O-Needle investigation to turn Tamil-Canadians against the Tigers.
An island off the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka fought a 26-year civil war against the LTTE, who financed their fight for ethnic Tamil independence with millions raised by front organizations in Canada.
In 2006, three Canadians of Sri Lankan descent were arrested in New York after trying to buy rifles and missiles from an undercover police informant. They have all since pleaded guilty. Three more suspects were arrested in the Toronto area.
Among them was Suresh, also known as Waterloo Suresh, an engineer and former head of the University of Waterloo Tamil Students Association. U.S. prosecutors alleged he helped launder $13,000 in rebel funds through U.S. bank accounts.
He was also accused of working with a Canadian co-conspirator, Ramanan Mylvaganam, to buy night-vision goggles, electronic equipment and submarine design software for the rebels. Mylvaganam pleaded guilty last year.
The Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009 with the defeat of the rebels. Since then, Sri Lanka has been under mounting pressure over the conduct of its forces, who have been accused of killing tens of thousands of civilians during the final stage of the conflict.