ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 11 , 2007
Vol. 41 - No 41

Lankan American freed, relates prison horror to US newspaper

A US citizen of Sri Lankan origin who was jailed for 31 days in Sri Lanka was cleared of terrorism charges and released, a US newspaper reported on Friday.

Evan Balasuriya, 65, told the Minnesota-based Star Tribune that he was roughed up by police, locked in a crowded jail with fetid conditions and imprisoned in a camp with Tamil Tiger rebels.


"I came from hell and back," Balasuriya told the newspaper in a telephone interview from Colombo. "The prisons and jails are 18th century. The whole thing was a corruption scam." Police sought bribes and asked him to sign statements he could not read, he said.

Balasuriya, a U.S. citizen, said he came to Minnesota 35 years ago and attended what is now Normandale Community College in Bloomington. He ran the Sri Lanka Curry House, a popular Uptown restaurant.

After the tsunami hit in 2005, Balasuriya organized a relief effort, helping a Sri Lankan village build 58 homes, a community centre and a playground, he said. Last year, he said, a man from another village wielding a "humongous knife" tried to stab him, claiming he was trying to sell the man's daughter into prostitution. Balasuriya sprayed the man with pepper spray. Balasuriya said the man persuaded a corrupt police officer to bring charges that Balasuriya had sprayed acid on him. Fearful that he would lose his passport, Balasuriya left the country.

He said he was assured by associates in Sri Lanka that it would be safe to return, so he came back, but on Feb. 5 he was arrested by police officers who roughed him up.

He said he was released the next day after paying $250 and handing over his passport. Meanwhile, he said, hotel employees found a bag of camouflage uniforms Balasuriya had brought for two Army majors for helping provide free security while the homes were built. Police arrested Balasuriya on suspicion of providing the uniforms for the Tamil Tigers.

He said he remained in jail for 22 days, sleeping on the floor and not eating for four days so he would not have to use the cell's "stinking" toilet. He said police obtained statements from both majors verifying his story, but he remained in prison until Thursday, when he was freed.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.