The Tamil community in the Netherlands (between 9,000 and 13,000 people) has been “largely annexed” by the Tamil Tigers to the violent conflict in Sri Lanka. Through extortion and sedition, a “climate of fear” has been shaped among Dutch Tamils.
By Marcel Haenen, NRC Handelsblad
This was the argument of Public Prosecutors (OM) Ward Ferdinandusse and Maartje Nieuwenhuis yesterday to The Hague court in a trial against five Tamils living in the Netherlands who were arrested in 2010.
According to the prosecutors, the suspects have been operating a base in the Netherlands for Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE). The prosecution showed the defendants have overseen an international criminal and terrorist organisation involved in arson, bombings, murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault.
The chief suspect, 52-year-old Schagen resident Ramaschandran S. was the international accountant for the LTTE, said the prosecutors. He is suspected of sending couriers around the world with cash to buy weapons for the Tigers. The OM is seeking a 16 year prison sentence for his crimes. Ten year sentences were demanded for three other Dutch Tamil Tigers, as well as a 12 year term for the alleged leader of the Dutch branch, 46-year-old Srirangam R. from The Hague.
Since 1983, the Tamil Tigers have been fighting against the Sri Lankan army for control of an independent homeland in the north of the island. Because of the LTTE’s frequent attacks on civilian targets and their use of suicide bombers and child soldiers, the European Union has listed the group as a terrorist organisation. Two years ago, the Tigers were defeated by the Sri Lankan army. “But here in Europe, the LTTE is alive and well,” said Ferdinandusse.
He called it “shocking” that Tamil children in the Netherlands “from their youngest years are brainwashed with the violent ideology of the LTTE.” In the Netherlands, the Tigers have 20 classrooms where children are bombarded during the weekend with propaganda. They make pictures of bombs and grenades. “They are told from childhood that their future lies not in the Netherlands, but in an independent Tamil state and that suicide bombers are heroes.”
According to the Dutch prosecutors, the Tamil Tigers are busy raising funds for the conflict 8,500 kilometres away. In the Netherlands, they run organisations like the Tamil Youth Organisation and the Dutch Tamil Arts and Culture Organisation, which seek municipal subsidies. It is money that, according to the prosecutors, is used to lubricate the war machine. For example, the OM found that the municipality of Zeist financed a sporting day for the Tamils with 2,000 euros. The money ended up going to the LTTE.
The suspects also demanded war taxes for the Tamils in the Netherlands. But if they could not pay, their family in Sri Lanka was forbidden to visit and they could not travel to the island.
The suspects stoically listened to the indictment, which took all day yesterday. Ramachandran, who has lived in the Netherlands since 1985, sat motionless at the hearing, muscular arms folded across his chest. He allowed only a glance at images prosecutors showed on a screen in the courtroom. Among other things, they depicted recordings of marching Tamil child soldiers in Sri Lanka, an “inflammatory speech” commemorating a fallen comrade from defendant Srirangam in 2007 and a photograph of Ramachandran posing with LTTE founder, Velupillai Prabhakaran in Sri Lanka.
Prosecutors said the defendant’s attitude in court matches the descriptions of the charges against him.
According to Ferdinandusse, “the defendants lack regret, guilt or any opinion of the punishable character of their acts.” As he put it, they were “happy to point the finger at the alleged crimes of the Sri Lankan government, but lack self-reflection over their own crimes.”
The OM is seeking long prison sentences over suspicions the suspects will commit crimes again. “Given the conscious, ideological and stubborn character of the criminal acts of the suspects, we should fear they will be repeated.”