Pre-trial hearing for Tamil-Australians

MELBOURNE — A pre-trial hearing began on October 20 in the case of three Tamil men accused of offences under the "anti-terror" laws.

Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, Sivarajah Yathavan and Arumugam Rajeevan, Australian citizens of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, are accused of being members of a terrorist organisation, providing funds to a terrorist organisation and providing resources to such an organisation. The alleged terrorist organisation is the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is fighting for self-determination for the Tamils of north-eastern Sri Lanka, who are oppressed by the racist government.

The prosecution wants to call Sri Lankan government and military officials, including the commanders of the army, navy and police, as witnesses to "prove" that the LTTE is a terrorist organisation. The defence is arguing in the committal hearing that the testimony of Sri Lankan government officials, who are clearly biased against the LTTE, should not be admissible.

The defence is also challenging certain "expert witnesses" whom the prosecution wants to call, arguing that their evidence would be largely hearsay and based on Sri Lankan military sources. The trial is expected to start in March 2009.