An FBI press release dated today, Dec. 27, 2012, announced that Piratheepan Nadarajah, 36, and Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32, two alleged operatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated foreign terrorist organization popularly referred to as the Tamil Tigers, following their extradition from Canada, will be arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of South India and North-east Sri Lanka. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry. Tamil is also a national language of Sri Lanka and an official language of Singapore. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and was declared a classical language by the government of India in 2004. Tamil is also spoken by significant minorities in Malaysia, Canada, South Africa, Germany, USA, Mauritius and Réunion as well as emigrant communities around the world. (Tamil-Wikipedia)
Nadarajah is charged with conspiring and attempting to acquire $1 million worth of anti-aircraft missiles, missile launchers, and other military equipment and conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the LTTE. Sriskandarajah is charged with conspiring to provide material support to the LTTE and dealing in the property of a specially designated terrorist group. At the request of the United States, Nadarajah and Sriskandarajah were previously arrested in Canada with a view to extradition, pursuant to warrants requested in the Eastern District of New York. (FBI press release)
According to the superseding indictment and other court filings, between July 1, 2006 and August 19, 2006, Nadarajah and several co-conspirators engaged in negotiations with an undercover FBI agent to purchase and export $1 million worth of high-powered weapons and military equipment for the LTTE, including 20 SA-18 heat-seeking, surface-to-air, anti-aircraft missiles; 10 missile launchers; and 500 AK-47s. Nadarajah and his associates attempted to acquire these weapons at the direction of senior LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, including Pottu Amman, then the LTTE’s chief of intelligence and procurement and the top deputy to then-LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan. The anti-aircraft weapons were to be used by the LTTE to shoot down Kfir aircraft used by the Sri Lankan military. (Ibid)
These same sources showed that between September 2004 and April 2006, Sriskandarajah and several co-conspirators assisted a principal LTTE procurement officer to research and acquire aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software, and communications equipment. Sriskandarajah used students as couriers to smuggle prohibited items into territory in Sri Lanka then controlled by the LTTE. Additionally, Sriskandarajah helped the LTTE launder its proceeds in the United States and elsewhere.
The extradition of these men has been a long time in coming. Sriskandarajah was arrested in 2006 after a joint FBI-Royal Mounted Police investigation portrayed him as the leader of four suspected terrorist supporters. His case has gone through Canadian appeals courts until recently the Canadian Supreme Court determined that they could and should be extradited to the U.S.
If convicted of all charges, Nadarajah faces a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison, and Sriskandarajah faces a maximum sentence of 25 years of imprisonment.
Although their cases are serious and the evidence is strong, we are reminded that the charges are yet only allegations and the suspects are still considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.