Geneva: Switzerland’s supreme court today ruled that 13 alleged financiers of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers were not guilty of supporting a criminal organisation and let them walk free.
Bringing to an end a nine-year process, the court found that prosecutors had not proved the accused had supported a criminal organisation.
It acquitted five of them completely and handed suspended sentences to the others for lower-level financial offences, the ATS news agency reported.
The 13 defendants — 12 Tamils or Swiss citizens of Tamil origin plus one German – stood accused of participating in or supporting a criminal organisation, fraud, forgery, money laundering and extortion.
During their eight-week trial, which began in January and closed in March, public prosecutor Juliette Noto had called for jail sentences of up to six and a half years, ATS said.
She charged that the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC), which oversaw a fundraising and money distribution operation, had created a sophisticated system to raise money from the Tamil community in Switzerland aimed largely at funding armed struggle in Sri Lanka.
According to the prosecution, families who refused to pay were threatened.
But today, the court ruled that WTCC was not a criminal organisation and that the prosecution had failed to sufficiently prove a hierarchical link between it and the Tamil Tigers.
The prosecution, which was not permitted to use press articles as evidence, also failed to prove the Tigers were a criminal organisation, the court said.
Switzerland is home to a large community of Tamils, who first arrived in the Alpine country during the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in 2009.
Colombo’s forces were accused of killing up to 40,000 Tamil civilians during the final months of the war when the Tigers’ quest for independence came to a bloody end.
International rights groups have called for the prosecution of both the military and the Tigers, who were notorious for suicide bombings and enlisting child soldiers.