Lawyers for Sri Lankan migrants grill terrorism expert

Posted by admin on Nov 20th, 2009

Wendy Stueck, Globe and Mail, Friday, Nov. 20, 2009

Lawyers for Sri Lankan migrants whose ship landed on the West Coast last month grilled Singapore-based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna Thursday on his claims about the men, questioning his sources, connections to the Sri Lankan government and the reliability of the information that he publishes on a terrorism database.

“The issue is the unverifiable nature of the sources you use when you refer to ‘closed’ or intelligence sources,” Lorne Waldman, a lawyer who represents several of the detainees, said at the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing at which Prof. Gunaratna answered questions via speakerphone from Singapore.

In response, Prof. Gunaratna said it is sometimes inappropriate or impossible to identify information as it would put their lives at risk. “We are not dealing with angels, we are dealing with terrorist organizations and I have to protect my sources,” Prof. Gunaratna said.

Barbara Jackman, another lawyer representing some of the detainees, questioned Prof. Gunaratna about the funding and relationships of his think tank, suggesting it could be characterized as a right-wing pro government body.

Prof. Gunaratna responded that he is independent of government and has often criticized them.

The cross-examination, which started after a couple of hours of legal wrangling before the IRB adjudicator comes as all but one of the 76 migrants remain in custody in British Columbia.

Prof. Gunaratna has been the chief adviser to federal investigators who are assessing the men and their backgrounds. Their names are under a publication ban. The professor’s views on the men are included in a report submitted in a 109-page document to the IRB, which is holding detention hearings for the men.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail earlier this, Prof. Gunaratna said one of the men on board the ship was a key player in a Tamil Tiger network that shipped weapons from North Korea to Sri Lanka. He also maintained that many of the migrants are Tigers –not refugees – who are coming to Canada to regroup.

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