Veteran Tamil journalist J. S. Tissainayagam, who has been jailed for 20 years rigorous imprisonment by the High Court of Colombo, on Monday, was granted bail pending appeal by the Appeal Courts.
The development came over two weeks after Sri Lanka Government informed a court that it has no objection if bail is given to Mr. Tissainayagam, first journalist in the island nation to be convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Mr. Tissainayagam was convicted on three counts including editing, printing and distributing the publication North Eastern Monthly magazine during the period between June 1, 2006 and June 1, 2007.
He stands charged on the count of inciting communal disharmony which was an offence punishable under Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was also convicted for collecting money to run the magazine and thereby furtherance of terrorism, an offence punishable under Emergency Regulations.
Mr. Tissainayagam was arrested in March 2008 when he visited the Terrorist Investigation Department in search of his colleague and publisher V. Jasikaran. He was held without charge for almost six months and then on August 25, he was charged with writing to incite ethnic disharmony.
The trial lasted one and a half years and Mr. Tissainayagam was convicted for 20 years hard labour on August 31. The case attracted attention within and outside the island nation. U.S. President Barrack Obama had said that he was concerned about threats against the media the world over, and mentioned the plight of Sri Lankan journalist J. S. Tissainayagam who has been detained for over a year.
“In every corner of the globe, there are journalists in jail or being actively harassed: from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, Burma to Uzbekistan, Cuba to Eritrea,” Mr. Obama said in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on May 3.