France slams Sri Lanka over journalist’s sentence

PARIS, September 1, 2009 (AFP) – France sharply rebuked the government of Sri Lanka on Tuesday after a court there sentenced a reporter to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges related to his alleged ties to Tamil rebels.

“J.S. Tissainayagam was given this heavy sentence simply for carrying out his profession as a journalist,” a French foreign ministry spokesman said.

“We will closely follow the appeals process and we hope that it will lead to J.S. Tissainayagam’s release. Attacks on freedom of expression and on the free exercise of journalism are a threat to democracy,” he added.

Tissainayagam, 45, who contributed to the local Sunday Times and ran a website that focused on the life of the island’s minority Tamils, was found guilty on three counts under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act.

A court official said he was ordered to do 20 years of hard labour.

He was found guilty on charges of receiving money from the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to fund his website and of inciting racial hatred through his writings about Tamils affected by the conflict. US President Barack Obama mentioned Tissainayagam in a May 1 World Press Freedom day statement, describing him as an “emblematic example

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