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Sri Lanka refuses Visas for Swiss lawyers

In the case against the Tamil Tigers, Swiss Federal State Prosecutors will cross-examine witnesses this week and the next. Lawyers for the defense will not be present as their visas have been refused by the Sri Lankan Government. Accompanying the State Prosecutors are five Police personnel and two translators. Although the Head of the team connected with the legal proceedings had discussed the question of the visas with the Sri Lankan legal authorities previously and the investigations are in keeping with the rogatory agreement of the two countries signed in 2010, the visas were refused at the last moment.

On Television instead of on  location

The Swiss Federal State Prosecutors will however, go ahead with the questioning of the witnesses and the attorneys for the defense can follow the proceedings in Bern through a Video conference system and can question the witnesses from there.The opinion of the State Prosecutors’ department is that this arrangement will protect the rights of the accused and the presence of the defense lawyers in Sri Lanka was, therefore, not necessary.In July the spokesperson of the Federal State Prosecutors’ department had stated, that the Head of the legal team had insisted that the defense lawyers should be present so that they can get first hand impression of the situation and can direct comprehensive questions on the spot.The legal proceedings against many Tamils had commenced as early as 2009. These individuals had intimidated and threatened their compatriots and extorted money to be given to the LTTE for the war that was ongoing then.In January 2011, during raids conducted by the Police in several Cantons, 10 persons were arrested. They were accused of money laundering, belonging to criminal organizations, intimidation and blackmail. Among the accused was the former Head of the LTTE, the Financial Controller and the Secretary of the movement.For the legal proceedings in Colombo, 15 persons have agreed on the summons and the State Prosecutors’ office hopes to get evidence against the accused.130 instances of illegal credit transactions of sums between 70,000 and 100,ooo had been got and the money diverted for use to finance the civil war in Sri Lanka. In the last few months, the Prosecutors’ Office had questioned around a hundred persons.In Autumn, it is planned to conduct further interogations in the Netherlands. By next year, the legal proceedings should be finalized. Apart from Switzerland, the US, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands are conducting investigations against members of the LTTE.The fact that the defense Counsel is not in Colombo when the questioning is taking place will make matters problematic, observed a lawyer, Gian Andrea Danuser. He is appearing for one of the accused who is presently under arrest in Sri Lanka. As he cannot establish contact with his client and he is not permitted to travel to Sri Lanka he maintains that the legal proceedings can be questionable.Marcel Bosonnet, a lawyer appearing for another accused stated that the agreed list of witnesses had been changed and some who should have been summoned have been left out. Bosonnet suspects that some witnesses are being tortured in the jails and their statements have, therefore, not been furnished.

Political reasons

The reason why the visas of the defense lawyers of the Tamil Tigers were withheld was because the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry had intervened in this matter, stated Gian Andrea Danuser.They had exercised their veto after the Sri Lankan Justice Department had agreed for the defense counsel to be granted their visas.

Author: TELO Admin