Updated: 03/19/2014 14:05 | By Agence France-Presse

Sri Lanka releases rights activists after outcry

Sri Lanka has released two leading rights activists after their detention under strict anti-terrorism laws triggered international condemnation, police and supporters said on Wednesday.


Sri Lanka releases rights activists after outcry

The government of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse (R) has been accused of human rights abuses - by Ishara S.Kodikara

Father Praveen Mahesan, a Catholic priest who heads the Peace and Reconciliation Centre in the war-torn Jaffna region, and Ruki Fernando of the Colombo-based INFORM advocacy group were detained on Sunday as they met relatives who lost loved ones during the Tamil separatist conflict.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said they were released after a court ruling late Tuesday.

Rohana said the activists, who were arrested in the northern district of Kilinochchi, were questioned extensively during their detention and further police investigations would continue.

Udaya Kalupathirana, the director of INFORM, said the pair had been released without charge. "They have not been told to appear in court again," he added.

The United States led international criticism of the arrests, saying they showed the need "for continued scrutiny" of Sri Lanka's rights record.

The arrests came in the build-up to a crunch vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at the end of the month when President Mahinda Rajapakse's regime is expected to be censured.

The US has drawn up a draft resolution calling for an international investigation into allegations that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed after government forces ordered them into a no-fire zone in the final stages of the conflict in 2009.

Colombo has flatly rejected the draft resolution, and the report by UN rights chief Navi Pillay on which it was based, as "unwarranted interference".

Sri Lanka has previously said it needs more time to address issues of accountability and reconciliation after ending the 37-year conflict, which according to UN estimates claimed at least 100,000 lives.

Police say the two activists were detained after shots were fired from within a home that they were visiting, injuring one officer.

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