Tamils face court

February 6, 2010

MELBOURNE — A pre-sentence hearing began on February 2 for three Tamil men who have pleaded guilty to providing money to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a group that fought for three decades for self-determination for the oppressed Tamil people of Sri Lanka.

The three were charged under a law that makes it illegal to give money to an organisation on the United Nations list of "terrorist" organisations.

The charge does not require proof that the money was used for terrorist activity.

The men — Arumugam Rajeevan, Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, and Sivarajah Yathavan — said the money they raised was used for humanitarian purposes, to help the victims of the December 2004 tsunami. This occurred during a ceasefire in the war.

At the time, the LTTE was the de facto government of much of the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. People who carried out aid work in these areas after the tsunami naturally worked with the LTTE.

This included Dr John Whitehall, chair of paediatrics and child health at the University of Western Sydney, who travelled to Sri Lanka in May 2005 to deliver medical equipment. The trial judge, Justice Paul Coghlan, said Whitehall might "technically" be guilty of an offence.

The hearing finished on February 5. Judgement will be handed down on March 31. The three men's bail has been extended until then.

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