Sri Lankan journalist jailed 20 years allowed bail

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A Sri Lankan journalist sentenced to 20 years in jail for supporting terrorism will be released on bail pending appeal, his attorney said Monday.

Jeyaprakash Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 after he criticized the government’s military offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels and its toll on civilians.

Government forces routed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam guerrillas in May last year, ending the country’s more than quarter-century civil war in which an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people died. U.N. documents estimated at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the final months of fighting.

M.A. Sumanthiran, an attorney for Tissainayagam, said an appeal court Monday ordered the journalist to surrender his passport and pay $500 bail. He is likely to be released Tuesday, he said.

President Barack Obama, in a speech last May, singled out Tissainayagam as an example of persecuted journalists throughout the world.

Media rights groups have said Sri Lanka is among the most dangerous places for dissenting journalists.

Amnesty International has said at least 14 Sri Lankan journalists and media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006. Many have fled the country because of death threats. Some have been assaulted and others arrested.