Lankan American accused of aiding Tigers
A Minnesota man arrested in Sri Lanka on suspicion of aiding Tamil Tigers could be released in a few days, but Police officials offered no guarantees and said the findings of their investigations were not complete, a US newspaper reported on Friday.
Meanwhile Evan Balasuriya who has been coordinating tsunami efforts remains in the Boossa detention camp in Galle, the StarTribune based in Minnesota said.
Mr. Balasuriya had been arrested early last month and claimed he was suspected of being a terrorist.
Mr. Balasuriya is being held on ‘suspicion of terrorism’, Evan Owen, the Press Officer of the US Embassy in Colombo said.
The newspaper quoted the US Embassy official as saying that to his knowledge, Mr. Balasuriya was the first American to be taken into custody in Sri Lanka on suspicion of terrorism.
Police arrested him on February 6, based on items they found in his hotel room, according to people who have worked with his organization, HelpSriLanka.us Foundation, operating since shortly after the tsunami in late 2004, the StarTribune said.
Mr. Balasuriya was completely surprised about the charges, but thought he would be getting out right away, said Audrey Fox, a physician from Victoria who visited him at a police station after the arrest in Mount Lavinia. “It's preposterous to think he's a terrorist,” she said.
Mr. Balasuriya, who owns the Sri Lanka Curry House in Minneapolis, began organizing relief trips to Sri Lanka just weeks after the tsunami hit and has been returning there every couple of months to a coastal region, where he once went to school and still has relatives.
After the organization first visited Sri Lanka, some people within the foundation raised questions about how donations were being spent and about Mr. Balasuriya's treatment of volunteers.
According to the most recent financial records on file with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, the foundation reported that it had received $438,601 in direct public support in 2005, and that it had a negative fund balance of $3,024 by year's end.
Mr. Balasuriya called Mr. Fox and two other colleagues on Wednesday.
“He told me, yeah, I'm actually in custody,” said Pamela Dowell, the organization's former communications coordinator.
“He said he's not scared, but he doesn't know when he'll be released. Evan sounds confident, but the situation's a little frightening,” she said.
Peter Maeck, a freelance writer collaborating on a book about the relief effort with Mr. Balasuriya, got a similar call.
Mr. Balasuriya had told Ms. Dowell he had been told he was arrested under suspicion of being a terrorist because he had brought camouflage uniforms for a friend who was providing his security. He also told her he brought items to use to protect himself, such as a stun gun, Ms. Dowell said.
The items apparently made hotel workers suspicious and they called police, according to Ms. Dowell and Fox and Mr. Maeck.