Sri Lanka slaps 90-day detention on France-bound woman

Sri Lanka slaps 90-day detention on France-bound woman

COLOMBO - Sri Lankan authorities Thursday extended by 90 days the detention of a suspected former Tamil rebel fighter arrested as she was returning to her home in France, police said.

Murugesu Jayaganesh Pakeerathy, 41, was arrested on Monday when she was at the airport with her eight-year-old daughter, a French national, and initially detained for 72 hours pending investigations by an anti-terrorism unit, said police spokesman Ajith Rohana.

"We have now got a detention order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act which means we can hold her for a period of 90 days," Rohana told AFP.

"We are hopeful of completing investigations very soon." He said the woman was being held at the police Terrorist Investigation Department and her daughter was allowed to stay with her, but was also free to leave and be placed in the custody of another guardian.

The French embassy was providing consular assistance but gave no further details.

Police said the mother was believed to have been a leader of the Sea Tigers, the naval unit of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). She had been an active combatant between 1997 and 2000, Rohana said.

She had left the island in 2005, four years before the LTTE was crushed by troops in the bloody finale to a 37-year separatist conflict.

Rohana said she returned to Sri Lanka last month and had been visiting relatives in the northern town of Paranthan, just south of the northern peninsula of Jaffna which was once the LTTE heartland.

Her arrest comes despite an announcement by the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena that it would launch a fresh ethnic reconciliation process with the help of the international community.

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