Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale says that there are no political prisoners in the country, and cases have been filed against suspects arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
She made this comment while speaking to media after a discussion with the lawyers of the Kandy Court.
Several suspects arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act have launched a strike, and their cases are being heard, she added. Delaying cases is a problem that affects the entire court system, not only them, she noted. She emphasized that a special discussion has been held with the Prime Minister, Attorney General and Opposition Leader on these suspects, and have informed of steps the government can take regarding them.
She went on to say that everybody must be happy about the fact that even prisoners can freely engage in strikes.
Anyone, just like the Justice Minister, can argue that there are no political prisoners because there is no officially recognized definition of who a political prisoner is.
It has not been interpretated in any national or international document. Also, no court uses the term political prisoner. Therefore, any government can argue that there are no political prisoners in the country.
According to the Justice Minister, they are suspects arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
However, human rights organizations and civil organ organizations use the term political prisoner because they are not arrested in relation to ordinary crimes.
Everyone agrees with the fact that the offences they have allegedly committed were not for the needs of themselves or a particular group.
No government or an institution calls an ordinary criminal a terrorist. Regardless of the nature of the crimes they have committed, they are called criminals.
Calling someone a terrorist immediately implies that they did what they did for a political objective. They are different from other criminals. They turn into terrorists due to certain aspects of the existing political system that should certainly to be changed. They deeds may be seriously questionable. It happens due to their understanding and approach regarding the situations they want to address. Their problems must have political solutions. What we need to understand is that their actions depend on the existing socio-polotical situation.
Therefore, those who are arrested due to violating laws that exist for political objectives must be considered political prisoners.
Besides, prisoners who are engaged in the strike (according to the Justice Minister, suspects arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act) are not demanding their release. They simply want cases to be filed against them.
Some of these suspects have been imprisoned for more than ten years without charges. They too have a right to know what the charges are.
Moreover, in a time when the rulers are boasting of national reconciliation and healing old wounds, keeping these suspects in this manner is a reason to be ashamed.
These ministers who today claim that there are no political prisoners sold the issue of political prisoners before coming into power. The political prisoners they noticed back then, have today become terrorists and criminals when they have power.
The Justice Minister is attempting to label the issue of politics prisoners as a simple delay of court hearings claiming that there are no political prisoners in this country.