A decision to this effect was taken at a high level meeting attended by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Ministers Tilak Marapana (Law and Order and Prison Reforms); Mano Ganesan (National Dialogue) and D.M. Swaminathan (Rehabilitation and Resettlement).
The prisoners, numbering 217, have been accused of having indulged in terrorist activities and held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act or Emergency laws. They are said to be in jails for varying periods ranging from five years to 15 years.
Mr. Marapana told The Hindu that steps would be taken to provide relief to those who were experiencing “long detention” and having “marginal charges.”
He clarified that “long detention” would include even those who were in jails for five to six years. However, he maintained that case by case examination would be done before moving the court.
Asked how many prisoners would get the relief, the Minister replied that he would not be able to give the number. To another query whether those who would get the relief would be released by the first week of November, Mr Marapana said “I can’t give you the timeframe but the Attorney General has been asked to take appropriate action.”
He added that there were 217 prisoners in total and in respect of 30 cases, no charges were filed against prisoners concerned. About 10 days ago, the Minister told this correspondent that 50 to 60 prisoners without charges were in jails.
According to Mr. Ganesan, the meeting also decided not to grant amnesty.
The meeting was held in the backdrop of a fast undertaken by the prisoners a few weeks ago, demanding their release. Last week, the Cabinet decided to get a recommendation of Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa on “accelerating judicial procedures” for the prisoners. A majority of about 12,000 members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who had surrendered at the end of the Eelam War had been rehabilitated by the government, according to an official release issued following the Cabinet meeting last week. (The Hindu)