Prabakaran's fingerprint, the clinching evidence

COLOMBO NOV. 10. The fingerprint of the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), V. Prabakaran, on a gift reportedly given by him to one of the LTTE cadre involved in the 1996- Central Bank bombing was the crucial evidence that led to the 200-year jail term for the rebel leader, a newspaper said today.

Mr. Prabakaran, whose obsession with his personal security is well known, was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police in May 1982, after a shootout with a rival militant leader, the late Uma Maheswaran, in Pondy Bazaar in Chennai. That was when Mr. Prabakaran— described by commentators as one who kept himself two steps ahead of the law-enforcers — was charged along with Uma Maheswaran for attempt to murder and violations of the Indian Explosives Act and the Arms Act.

Efforts by the Sri Lankan police to have the two extradited failed. The island's Defence Ministry also announced a Rs. 1 million award for the Tamil Nadu police. Later, in the mid-1980s, the Sri Lankan Tamil militants were arrested by the Tamil Nadu police, but were released subsequently.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, which cites the 126-page verdict on the Central Bank bombing case, it was the 1982 police record that turned out to be the crucial evidence, nearly 20 years later.

Pointing out that it was the Indian police record that led to the sentencing of Mr. Prabakaran, political observers said the violation of the Indian law by the LTTE in the past— especially the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi — are bound to come as a major hurdle that has to be considered before any meaningful settlement to the Tamil conflict is reached.

The Sunday Times report said that one of the bombers had confessed that "a day prior to leaving on the bombing mission,'' they were informed that Mr. Prabakaran would visit them.

After partaking meals with the LTTE leader and `Pottu Amman,' the organisation's intelligence chief, the bomber was reportedly "sent to see the LTTE chief in his room where he was presented a silver plaque with an embossed `eelam' map.'' The bomber had reportedly said that the plaque, presented to him in a red box, was sent to his father living in Mutur, in Sri Lanka's eastern Trincomalee district.

Based on this confession, a police team lead by the Chief Inspector of the Sri Lankan Police counter insurgency unit, Nilabdeen, led a team in February 1996 into the LTTE-controlled areas and detected the box with the plaque, the newspaper said.

"Subsequently, the fingerprints on the plaque were checked with a copy of Mr. Prabakaran's fingerprints that had been obtained from India in 1982 on the instructions of the then IGP.''

It may be recalled that Mr. Nilabdeen survived a suicide bomb attack on March 16, 1999, as he was leaving his police station in suburban Colombo.

He was the second of the three survivors of Black Tiger attacks, the other two being a retired soldier and the President, Chandrika Kumaratunga. "A careful inspection had revealed that the plaque contained fingerprints of the suspect as well as of Mr. Prabakaran.''

Mr. Pottu Amman who was also named in the Central Bank bombing case was discharged as "it was not established beyond doubt'' that he had "advised and encouraged them to carry out the attack,'' the newspaper said.

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