A Canadian man has pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge in the United States for supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ellam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka.
Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison after admitting Tuesday in a federal court in New York of plotting to provide material support to the LTTE, a group banned in Canada and the U.S.
An accomplished student in Waterloo, Ontario, Sriskandarajah came to Canada from northern Sri Lanka as a boy. Also known as Waterloo Suresh, he had been working on a Ph.D. after earning degrees from the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. In May, 2008, he received Laurier’s CIBC Leaders in Entrepreneurship Award.
“The guilty plea was probably something he was planning for some time to try to get a reduced sentence,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a Post-Doctoral Fellow at York University. “He was facing 15 years in jail and a long drawn-out trial. Not really the ideal situation to be in. The letter provided by the Sri Lankan government is also interesting – and seems to have been effective. It’s clear that the family did all they could to help.”
In the letter cited by Amarasingam, Sri Lanka is purported to have urged the U.S. to abandon his prosecution because of “his publicly recognized efforts to secure a lasting, peaceful reconciliation for the Tamil people.”
The letter was revealed by the U.S. federal judge hearing his bail plea in February, the National Post had reported.
The Canadian newspaper said Judge Raymond Dearie refused him bail “with some reluctance” and had noted that “given the history of Sri Lanka’s prolonged and bitter conflict,” the request was “an extraordinary initiative that evidences Suresh’s legitimate and admirable work.”
Even Judge Dearie’s reference to him by his first name only suggests an atypical reaction of the U.S. court system towards a terrorist, the Post said.
Sriskandarajah was first arrested in August 2006 after a joint investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation into the activities of the LTTE, better known as Tamil Tigers.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that between September 2004 and April 2006, Sriskandarajah and several co-conspirators helped research and acquire aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software, night vision equipment and communications technology.
The prosecutors said Sriskandarajah used students as couriers to smuggle prohibited items into LTTE-held territory in Sri Lanka at that time and he helped the group launder its money in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Founded in 1976, the LTTE began its armed conflict against the Sri Lankan government in 1983 to establish an independent Tamil state in northern part of the country. Its guerrilla strategy often included acts of terrorism and numerous political assassinations, including the May 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the 1993 assassination of the President of Sri Lanka Ranasinghe Premadasa.
India declared the LTTE a terrorist group in 1992, followed by the U.S. in 1997. Canada and the European Union did so in 2006. In May 2009, Sri Lankan government forces defeated the LTTE. – New Canadian Media