Resistance vs terrorism is a complex beast; enter the Tamil Tigers

Post 9/11, finding nuance in the state view towards “terrorism” was rare, indeed. But here is a challenging example, questioning the idea that every form of resistance is somehow connected to al-Qaeda:

More than three years after federal agents locked up a Sri Lankan immigrant they say was the top U.S. representative of the Tamil Tigers, his fate may hinge on a complex question: Was the rebel group a terrorist threat to Americans?

Federal prosecutors who charged Karunakaran Kandasamy with supporting terrorism say the answer is yes. And they say he should get a stiff sentence approaching 20 years for raising money for the separatist group, which fought a 25-year war with the Sri Lankan government.

But a judge recently expressed his doubts.

The case against the jailed Kandasamy doesn’t neatly fit the definition of “a more obvious or garden variety terrorism case, where … our security interests are compromised and the safety of our citizenry is in jeopardy,” U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie said earlier this month at Kandasamy’s scheduled sentencing, which was postponed.

“Do we simply wave the red flag of terrorism and impose the maximum sentence?”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Knox argued the Tamil Tigers had earned a State Department designation as a terrorist organization in part by putting U.S. citizens living in Sri Lanka in harm’s way. He also said the group’s supporters in the United States extorted cash from Sri Lankan immigrants.

The Tamil Tigers pioneered and perfected technology for suicide bombings, Knox said. That technology “was borrowed and copied and sold on some occasions to other terrorist organizations — organizations like al-Qaida, that directly target the United States, organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and others in the region,” he said.

Internal documents show the Tamil Tigers considered other terror groups as fellow freedom fighters, and had a policy of “sharing black market arms shipments and explosive shipments, the financial system, bank accounts,” he said.

The judge put off sentencing after Kandasamy — who has battled a spinal problem and other serious ailments since his arrest — asked for mercy.

“I love this country and its soil,” the 54-year-old former cab driver said through an interpreter. “I’m sick and I’m afraid I’ll never live to be free with my family again.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common