A man called the top U.S. representative of an outlawed Sri Lankan rebel group has been freed from jail in a New York City terrorism case.A judge sentenced Karunakaran (kah-roo-nah-KEHR-ahn) Kandasamy (kahn-dah-SAH-mee) on Friday to time served _ about five years. Prosecutors had sought a maximum 20-year term. But there’s still no finality to the criminal case.After countless delays, one of five defendants left in legal limbo _ a naturalized U.S. citizen and former cab driver named Karunakaran Kandasamy _ is up for sentencing Friday in federal court in Brooklyn. Two others who also pleaded guilty are awaiting sentencing, while another pair is fighting extradition in Canada.For the 55-year-old Kandasamy, the stakes are high: Prosecutors have argued that as the top U.S. representative for the Tamil Tigers, he deserves a lengthy sentence _ the maximum is 20 years _ for raising money for the separatist group. The defense believes Kandasamy, who suffers from diabetes and other ailments, already has done enough time. The United States and other Western countries had labeled the Tamil Tigers a terrorist organization before the rebels were defeated in a bloody civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009. Nearly six years have passed since U.S. authorities took the unusual step of rounding up a group of Sri Lankan immigrants and charging them with breaking terror financing laws by raising money and trying to get weapons for the Tamil Tigers rebel forces.Since then, 14 defendants charged in New York have been convicted. Some were given 25 years in prison. Back home, the Tamil Tigers were finally vanquished after a bloody civil war. The 55-year-old Kandasamy was among several Sri Lankan immigrants rounded up in the mid-2000s and accused of illegally raising money for the Tamil Tigers. Kandasamy, a native Tamil who’s been jailed for five years, “is a fundamentally good and decent man who wanted to help the community he clearly loved _ a community that suffered terribly for many years,” defense attorney Charles Ross wrote in a recent letter to the judge. “There is no question that Mr. Kandasamy went too far and broke the law, but like other defendants in this case, he was motivated by a deep desire to help his people,” the letter adds.In 2009, the Tamil Tigers admitted defeat in their 25-year war with the Sri Lankan government that left more than 70,000 people dead.The rebels, who once controlled a de facto state in the island nation’s north, had been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for minority Tamils after decades of oppression by the Sinhalese majority. Blamed for hundreds of suicide attacks, the Tamil Tigers were shunned internationally and branded terrorists by the U.S., European Union and India. Federal authorities in New York had sought to cut off support for the group by arresting sympathizers in their East Coast immigrant communities in 2006 and 2007 on charges of conspiring to provide material aid to a terrorist organization. Some like Kandasamy were tied to a covert campaign to raise and launder millions of dollars through a charity front organization.Prosecutors say there’s evidence Kandasamy helped raise millions of dollars for the Tamil Tigers, and that he went to Sri Lanka to meet with rebel commanders.The defense argued in it recent letter that Kandasamy’s motives were humanitarian. It says in Sri Lanka, he “personally witnessed the brutality of the Sri Lankan government on many occasions. … For more than 25 year, he lived in constant fear for his life and safety and the lives and safety of his family, friends and neighbors.”The U.S. government, “recognizing the systematic victimization of the Tamil people, granted Mr. Kandasamy political asylum in the early 1980s,” the letter adds. After that, “he lived an upstanding, law-abiding life.” (AP)
“These funds will help to save lives,” declared UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock as he announced that the funding would rapidly bolster the response for some 22 million people in Yemen who need humanitarian assistance, including more than eight million who are “a step away from famine.”Since 2015, Yemen has been in engulfed a conflict between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.Mr. Lowcock emphasized that to roll back the unfolding catastrophe, three things need to happen. “First,” he began, “there must be reduction both in fighting on the ground and airstrikes, which have greatly intensified in recent weeks.” Armed conflict is killing and injuring people and destroying critical infrastructure. Danger and bureaucratic impediments hamper humanitarians’ ability to reach those in need, including those at risk of diphtheria – a growing outbreak now in most of Yemen’s governorates. Mr. Lowcock maintained that “the parties to the conflict must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” and facilitate humanitarian partners. “Second,” he continued, “we need all ports to remain open without interruption. Yemen imports about 90 per cent of its staple food and nearly all of its fuel and medicine […] a lifeline for millions of people.” Moving forward, sustained and higher levels of food, fuel and medicines must be imported. “Third,” he said, “we need faster and more generous donor financing.” While aid saved millions in 2017, recent restrictions and intensified fighting have forced more reliance on aid. “The CERF allocation today will ensure a comprehensive, integrated response across life-saving humanitarian sectors for the most vulnerable people in 27 high-priority districts at risk of famine, as well as in areas where conflict has recently escalated,” he said. “The Yemeni people need an end to the conflict so that they can begin to rebuild their lives. For this to happen, the parties to the conflict must cease hostilities and engage meaningfully with the UN to achieve a lasting political settlement,” he concluded.