Sri Lankan Muslim politician arrested

Indo Asian News Service

London, May 3 (IANS) A Muslim politician and government critic arrested in Sri Lanka must be immediately released or charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence, Amnesty International said.

Azad Sally, leader of Sri Lanka's newly formed Muslim Tamil National Alliance, was reportedly taken into custody Thursday by the intelligence services for unknown reasons, Amnesty said.

Sally has been an outspoken critic of a Buddhist group, Bodu Bala Sena, which has since February allegedly attacked Muslim and Christian religious establishments.

On April 29, Sally told journalists he was in hiding because he feared for his safety after receiving threats in state-run media.

"Azad Sally's arrest, and the harassment he has faced over the past weeks, is indicative of the climate of fear government critics in Sri Lanka are forced to live under," said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

"He must be released immediately or charged with an internationally recognisable criminal offence," Truscott said.

"He has been campaigning to end oppressive practices against minorities in Sri Lanka, in particular Muslims and Tamils, for which he has faced the ire of the Sri Lankan government.

"Sally appears to be the latest victim in the intensifying crackdown on dissenting views we have seen in recent years, motivated by the government's desire to tighten its grip on power," Truscott said.

"Journalists, the judiciary, human rights workers and opposition politicians like Sally are among those who have been targeted through threats, harassment and vicious violent attacks."

The Sri Lankan government remains set to host the Commonwealth Summit in November despite calls by Amnesty International and others for it to be relocated.