Deeply concerned by the arrest and ongoing detention of award-winning writer Shakthika Sathkumara, the world’s leading association of writers has launched a worldwide campaign for his release.
London based PEN International believes that Shakthika Sathkumara is being held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) was instrumental in bringing Sathkumara's arbitrary arrest and detention to PEN international's attention, who launched this first ever global appeal to secure the freedom of a Sinhala writer.
Sathkumara was arrested almost three months ago in connection with ‘Ardha’ (‘Half’), a short story published on Facebook, following a complaint by an extremist Buddhist outfit, that his work of fiction was derogatory and defamatory to Buddhism.
He has been charged with inciting religious hatred and violating international human rights law under Section 3(1) of Sri Lanka’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No. 56 of 2007 (ICCPR Act 2007) and Article 291B of the Penal Code.
His arrest came after Buddhist monk Angulugaha Jinananda of the Buddhist Information Centre urged the police chief to explicitly use the ICCPR Act to arrest the writer.
In its worldwide campaign PEN international calls to send appeals urging the Sri Lankan authorities to:
* take steps to safeguard freedom of expression in line with international standards and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sri Lanka is a State Party.
Sathkumara’s next hearing before a Magistrate is scheduled for 25 June 2019. If once the investigation is completed and he is charged under the above provisions of law, Sathkumara could face up to 10 years in prison.