Reporter freed on bail until appeal

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The Independent Online

A Sri Lankan journalist, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for supporting terrorism after he criticised the government, will be released on bail pending appeal, his lawyer said yesterday.

Jeyaprakash Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 after he wrote articles that accused the government of cutting off Tamil-majority areas from food and other essential items during its military offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Government forces routed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam guerrillas in May last year, ending the country's quarter-century civil war in which an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people died. In a speech in May, President Barack Obama singled out Mr Tissainayagam as an example of persecuted journalists throughout the world.

M.A. Sumanthiran, a lawyer for Mr Tissainayagam, said an appeals court ordered the journalist to surrender his passport and pay $500 bail. He is likely to be released today, he said.

Media rights groups have said Sri Lanka is among the most dangerous places for dissenting journalists.

Amnesty International has said at least 14 Sri Lankan journalists and media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006.