VANCOUVER, Canada — A judge sentenced a Tamil Tiger fundraiser to six months in jail here Friday after the man pleaded guilty to raising money in Canada to help support the Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka.
"This is a serious offence," said Justice Robert Powers, noting the "great harm to all Sri Lankans" from the violence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Prapaharan Thambithurai, 46, was the first person to be charged under new Canadian legislation against financing foreign terrorist organizations. He had been out on bail since shortly after police arrested him in Vancouver in 2008.
He pleaded guilty in British Columbia Supreme Court earlier this week to one charge of "providing financial services, knowing that they will benefit a terrorist group, namely the (LTTE)."
In 2009 Sri Lankan government forces crushed the Tigers, ending a 30-year civil war. The judge, acknowledging there was no precedent in the case, denied requests by defence lawyers for a three-year suspended sentence, and by the prosecution for two years in jail.
"I'm not satisfied that a suspended sentence would meet the needs of deterrence," said Powers, adding that Canada attracts refugees because of the country's "civility and respect for the rule of law."
Powers noted that when police arrested Thambithurai in 2008 in this west coast metropolis, he was carrying two donations of 300 and 600 dollars, 25 pledges of support for a Tamil "uprising fund," and material promoting the LTTE, including calendars and CDs.
Powers reviewed Thambithurai's story, from his move to Canada in 1988 as a young refugee following the deaths of his father and brother during Sri Lanka's bloody civil war, to the fact he has no criminal record and is married with three children.
Thambithurai is considered to be of "good character" and was near the bottom of the Tigers fund-raising organization, noted Powers. But, he added, the LTTE "relies on many small contributions."
While the terrorist-financing case was the first in Canada, the Tamil Tigers "war tax" collected from expatriate refugees has long been contentious elsewhere.
Cases were successfully prosecuted for 27 years in Italy, Germany, France and Australia, said terrorism expert John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute. (AFP)