UK tourist recounts ‘hellish’ time in Sri Lanka over Buddha tattoo

COLOMBO, April 22, 2014 (AFP) – A 37-year-old British nurse recounted Tuesday her “hellish” experience in Sri Lanka after she was arrested and sent to a deportation centre for sporting a Buddha tattoo deemed offensive by authorities. In August 2012, three French tourists were sentenced to six months in jail, which was suspended for five years, for kissing a Buddha statue in what the authorities considered a sign of disrespect.

Sri Lanka prevented US rap star Akon from visiting in 2010 over one of his music videos which featured scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue.

It was not immediately clear to which country the detained British woman would be deported or when she would be put on a flight. Naomi Coleman was arrested at the country’s main international airport on Monday shortly after her arrival on a flight from neighbouring India and appeared before a magistrate who ordered her deportation, police said in a statement.

“It is a terrible, hellish experience,” Coleman, a mental health nurse from Coventry in England, told AFP by telephone at the Sri Lankan deportation centre.

“I am a practising Buddhist and meditate. That is why I have the tattoo — not out of disrespect for Buddhism.”

Earli