COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has detained an opposition Muslim political leader for 90 days using a tough anti-terrorism law in what the minority community said Monday was the latest in a string of attacks against them.
Azath Sally, 49, the former deputy mayor of Colombo and the leader of the Muslim National Unity Alliance, was being held under a 90-day detention order, police spokesman Buddhika Siriwardena said.
“The charges are under the Prevention of Terrorism Act,” Siriwardena said, without elaborating.
The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka or MCSL, an umbrella organization of Muslim groups, said Sally was detained on Sunday.
“We have written to the president to release Mr. Sally immediately and make public the charges that are said to have been brought against him,” MCSL leader N.M. Ameen told AFP.
Sally has been a vocal critic of the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse and blamed the authorities for allowing an anti-Muslim campaign in the Buddhist-majority nation that culminated in an arson attack on two Muslim-owned businesses in March.
Extensive damage was caused to a clothing store and a vehicle yard, but three Buddhist monks and 14 other Buddhists arrested over the attack were later freed as police and the victims did not press charges.
The Asian Human Rights Commission condemned Sally’s arrest using the act, nearly four years after security forces crushed Tamil rebels and declared an end to the island’s decade-old ethnic war.
“The AHRC warns that a new principle is emerging in Sri Lanka now where if anyone is considered as having made a wrong political decision, the government agencies can arrest and detain them,” the Hong Kong-based commission said.
Last week, the London-based Amnesty International accused Sri Lanka of instilling a climate of fear by stepping up repression, a charge denied by Sri Lanka as a “fascinating piece of fiction.”