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Take political decision to release prisoners held under PTA: Sumanthiran

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Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian M.A.Sumanthiran has urged the government to make a political decision to release all the prisoners held under the PTA without further legal action against them.

He also sought Justice Minister to seek President to exercise his power of granting pardon.

He made this observation moving an adjournment motion on detainees in Parliament on Thursday. Addressing the House, Sumanthiran pleaded that it was meaningless to incarcerate detainees under the PTA even after they spent over a decade in prisons. The government is to replace the PTA with the “Counter Terrorism Act”. The Prevention of Terrorism of Act (PTA) was enacted in 1979 as a temporary legislation for six months. It was extended from time to time and eventually became permanent. Several provisions of the PTA were left out in the new bill.

He went on that the Prevention of Terrorism Temporary Provisions Act is criticized by many people and organizations. Some clauses in the PTA are draconian; there is preventive detention for 18 months at a time, merely on suspicion and a detention order signed by the Defence Secretary. It was revealed that persons held were tortured to obtain confessions under the PTA and these confessions were challenged many a time. Many accused had told courts with medical evidence that they were tortured to get information.

He said: “Several persons were arrested under the PTA over the last several decades and convicted. In most cases, suspects’ confessions to a police officer were the only or main evidence against them. Under the proposed new law, confessions are not counted as evidence. Over 100 persons are in prisons under PTA.

A provision of the Act says that a confession by a suspect signed by an officer above the Assistant Superintend of Police is admissible as evidence in court. If the confession is challenged, proving that the confession was not voluntary is given to the accused. This provision is utterly unfair.

This happened when an armed rebellion was in the country. People waged war against the government to form another government but that objective is no more. The Rajapaksa government released 12,000 people who fought against the government but the present government, we thought, would be more humane than the Rajapaksa government, but we do not see any progress.”

 

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