Upset as Sri Lanka editor seized

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The Independent Online

The Sri Lankan government was condemned by media campaigners today after police seized a Tamil newspaper editor at a family funeral and accused him of supporting a kamikaze attack by rebel forces.

Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, editor of the Sudar Oli, was greeting mourners in the capital, Colombo, when a white van pulled up, three officers got out and dragged the editor into the van, witnesses said. Lakshman Hulugalle, a defence ministry spokesman, said Mr Vithyatharan was being held over the suicide attack last week by Tamil Tiger rebels who flew planes into targets in Colombo. "There was nothing harsh in the arrest because he's a wanted person," he said.

But Reporters Without Borders demanded Mr Vithyatharan's immediate release. "Carried out without a warrant, this arrest was a violation of the rule of law," it said. "What is this respected Tamil editor accused of? Outspoken coverage of the situation in Sri Lanka."

The day before, police had visited his newspaper's offices and demanded the names and addresses of all employees. The paper's managing editor E Saravanapavan, said his paper had been critical of the government and supported Tamil rights. "We support the right to freedom of expression," he said. "We don't support the armed struggle."

Last month, a newspaper editor critical of the war was killed by gunmen, a private TV station was attacked by assailants armed with guns and grenades and another editor was stabbed. The government denies any involvement.