Tamil-Canadian romanced terror

From the National Post.

Tamil-Canadian student leader got the ‘VIP tour’ from Tigers

Stewart Bell, National Post Published: Monday, August 17, 2009

Satha Sarachandran, former national president of the Canadian Tamil Students Association, poses with a machine gun at a Tamil Tigers rebel camp in Sri Lanka. FBI handout Satha Sarachandran, former national president of the Canadian Tamil Students Association, poses with a machine gun at a Tamil Tigers rebel camp in Sri Lanka.

Photos of a former Toronto student leader handling and firing guns at a rebel camp have been unsealed by United States prosecutors in advance of his sentencing on terrorism charges.

Sathajhan Sarachandran was once national president of the Canadian Tamil Students Association but the photos show him holding a machine gun and aiming a rifle while uniformed Tamil Tigers rebels look on.

RCMP officers found the pictures during a search of Sarachandran’s residence in Scarborough. The search was conducted at the request of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was investigating his involvement in a rebel arms smuggling ring.

The 29-year-old computer science student has since pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism and conspiracy to buy surface-to-air missiles for the rebels, also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE. He faces a possible life term at his sentencing on Oct. 6.

Another Canadian, Nadarasa Yogarasa, is also scheduled for sentencing that day. Sahilal Sabaratnam, the former communications director of the Canadian Tamil Congress, is to be sentenced on Nov. 13. Three more Canadians have been charged and are awaiting extradition to the United States

Documents written by federal prosecutors in preparation for the sentencing hearing detail the results of the RCMP’s search of Sarachandran’s home for the first time. In one of the photos seized in Toronto, Sarachandran is seen aboard a ship that is flying the flag of the Sea Tigers, the rebel navy.

The Mackenzie Institute’s John Thompson identified the weapons in the photos as a .22-calibre training rifle and a Soviet or Chinese PKM medium machine gun. He said Sarachandran did not appear to be training but rather “getting the VIP tour.”

The RCMP search also turned up Tamil Tigers propaganda and documents, a desktop computer, laptop, jump drive and a letter in which Sarachandran, alias “Satha,” identified himself as the Canadian coordinator of the Tamil Youth Organization, which the prosecutors said was controlled by the Tamil Tigers. “During the search, the RCMP found substantial evidence of Satha’s provision of material support to the LTTE,” U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell wrote.

The prosecutors also released transcripts of several recorded conversations in which Sarachandran appeared to speak candidly about the Tamil Tigers support network in Toronto. “Money is not a problem,” Sarachandran said during a July 31, 2006, meeting in Long Island, N.Y., with an informant posing as an arms dealer.

Later, he discussed methods used to raise money in Canada. “More or less in all the shops they have a percentage system,” he said. “They have collected a lot of money from a lot of people in that manner.”

He said that in Canada, there were “covert people” unknown to intelligence officials, whom he called the “four letters,” possibly in reference to CSIS or the RCMP. “The four letters in our country is not a problem; four letters meaning the intelligence people don’t know about these guys.

“These are covert people and not the flag holding type. They are backstage. They are not connected to anything at all; just employed in very good jobs or professional fields like electronics, engineering, etc…

“They are everywhere.”

But he said there had been “problems” since April, 2006. That was the month the Conservative government put the Tamil Tigers on Canada’s list of outlawed terrorist organizations. Also that month, the RCMP raided the Montreal and Toronto branches of the World Tamil Movement, a suspected rebel front. “They searched the premises of the organization,” Sarachandran said.

Toronto was once a major support base for the Tamil Tigers, separatist guerrillas fighting for independence for Sri Lanka’s ethic Tamil minority. A secret Canadian intelligence report released in July called Canada one of the rebels’ top sources of funding, providing up to $12-million a year.

But while the rebels had until recently controlled a quarter of Sri Lanka, they suffered a decisive defeat in May at the hands of the Sri Lankan military, which captured their strongholds and killed their top leaders.

National Post


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