Jailed Karuna implicates Sri Lankan Govt

IANS | ByPK Balachandran, Colombo
Jan 26, 2008 01:53 PM IST

The controversial breakaway Tamil Tiger leader "Colonel" Karuna has been found guilty of being in Britain on a false Sri Lankan diplomatic passport.

The controversial breakaway Tamil Tiger leader "Colonel" Karuna, who has been found guilty of being in Britain on a false Sri Lankan diplomatic passport, has implicated the Sri Lankan government.

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Karuna, whose real name is Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, on Friday told the Isleworth Crown Court in West London that the Sri Lankan government's defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, had "arranged everything" for him to travel to Britain on a diplomatic passport, the BBC reported.

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The Tamil militant leader said he was under the protection of the Sri Lankan government even though he was not a government official. BBC further said that Karuna was given his forged passport only after he had boarded the plane. The passport carried his photograph but not other details.

Hunted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), from which he had defected in March 2004, Karuna is also being hounded by international human rights groups for alleged "war crimes" like abduction and recruitment of children for armed conflict, extortions and murders in troubled eastern Sri Lanka, both before and after his defection from the LTTE.

UN agencies, which also castigated Karuna, had accused the Sri Lankan government of being "complicit" in his crimes.

As British judge McDowell sentenced him to nine months of imprisonment, Karuna, sitting behind a protective glass enclosure, listened without emotion. With close-cropped hair, he was wearing a striped T-shirt and steel rimmed spectacles.

Karuna's lawyer, David Philips, told the BBC that he would be seeking political asylum in Britain after serving the nine-month jail term. His wife and children are already in Britain, he added.

According Colombo-based weekly The Morning Leader, Karuna had arrived in Britain from Sri Lanka on a false Sri Lankan diplomatic passport on September 18 and was caught by British authorities in early November.

The paper further said that the passport had been issued in the name of a government official Kokila Gunawardena who was supposedly travelling to Britain to attend a meeting on environmental issues.

However, the Sri Lankan government has denied that it had asked the immigration department to issue a diplomatic passport to the said Gunawardena and sent a note to the British High Commission to issue him a visa. The government maintains that it had no knowledge of Karuna's departure.

Karuna was the Batticaloa and Amparai district leader of the LTTE up to March 2004, when he had a fallout with LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. Soon after, he formed the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) that had the tacit support of the Sri Lankan government and the armed forces.

However, a stage came towards the end of 2007, when it became too embarrassing for the Sri Lankan government to keep Karuna any longer in Sri Lanka. Political circles say that he was encouraged to leave the country after handing over de facto control of the TMVP to his second-in-command, Pillaiyaan.

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