PARIS, October 12, 2009 (AFP) – Twenty-two suspected Tamil Tiger rebels went on trial Monday for running an extortion racket among Paris’s ethnic Tamil diaspora to fund their separatist struggle in Sri Lanka. The defendants include Nadaraja Matinthiran, the alleged leader in France of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is accused of extorting some five million euros (7.4 million dollars) from the country’s 75,000 Tamils.
Also in the dock is a group called the Tamil Coordination Committee in France, believed to be a legal front for the LTTE, which has been listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union since 2006.
Experts believe the Tamil Tigers exert a controlling influence over the political life of the 1.5-million-strong world Tamil diaspora, in many cases levying a “revolutionary tax” based on household size and income.
Most of the Paris suspects were arrested in April 2007 and charged with criminal conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, financing of terrorism or racketeering to finance terrorism.
Defence lawyer Gilles Piquois called at the outset for the case to be thrown out, arguing that the LTTE was not considered a terrorist organisation by the Sri