In the first conviction in Canada for funding of terrorists abroad, a court here jailed a Tamil for collecting money for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) which was routed by the Sri Lankan forces in May last year.
Prapaharan Thambithurai, 46, was jailed for six months after pleading guilty to the criminal offence after his arrest here in March 2008. The LTTE and many other terror outfits were banned in Canada in 2006. He faced up to 10 years, but the prosecution demanded him to be locked for two years. In the end, Judge Roberts Powers of the British Columbia supreme court in Vancouver ordered him to be locked for just six months.
The Sri Lankan Tamil will complete his jail term in the Toronto area where he lives. He came to Canada as a refugee in 1988.
Thambithurai was arrested while seeking donations for the World Tamil Movement for relief work in Sri Lanka. But Canadian intelligence agencies found that the body was a front organization for the banned LTTE. Pleading guilty, he admitted that half of the money raised for humanitarian aid went to the LTTE. His lawyer said his client had no option because any humanitarian aid for Tamils had to pass through the rebel-held area.
His conviction comes at a time when the huge Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora here is set for observing a two-day mourning to mark the first anniversary of the end of the ethnic conflict in the island nation.
The 300,000-strong community is observing May 17-19 as 'Days of Remembrance' for the Tamils killed in what they described as 'war crimes against humanity' by Sri Lankan forces.
The largest diaspora outside the island nation, it was the most vocal supporter of the LLTE during the ethnic conflict. They virtually brought Toronto to a standstill last year as the LTTE faced imminent defeat.