Aussies detained in Sri Lanka fly home

IFJ    Two Australians detained in Sri Lanka since Wednesday are on their way home, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says its Asia-Pacific director Jacqui Park and her deputy Jane Worthington have been “extensively” interrogated since they were taken into custody.

They were taking part in a press freedom meeting in Colombo, according to the IFJ.

Ms Bishop said she had spoken to her Colombo counterpart.

“The Sri Lankan foreign minister has assured me they are on their way home as we speak,” she told reporters in Perth on Friday night.

Sri Lankan Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has told local journalists the two Australians had arrived in the country as tourists but were instead engaging in “anti-government activism”.

“We have no personal interest in the two individuals but they have broken the visa conditions,” the minister said on Thursday.

“We are treating them according to the law. That means they will be sent back.”

The IFJ said in a statement that the women’s passports were confiscated on Wednesday and although they agreed to leave Sri Lanka by the following day, ahead of their scheduled departure on Friday, they were later told they could not leave.

The IFJ has denied the women were involved in any anti-government activities or breached their visa conditions, instead describing their detention as an attempt to intimidate and harass journalists in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting later this month.

The organisation says Sri Lankan officials had kept a file on Ms Park, detailing her 17 visits to the country over 15 years.

“She has been subjected to several lengthy interrogations of up to nine hours focusing on her movements in Sri Lanka and associations with local media personnel,” the IFJ said.

The pair are due to touch down in Sydney on Saturday morning and are expected to be met by the head of the Australian journalists’ union, Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance secretary Chris Warren.(The Australian)

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