Tamil man Dayan Anthony questioned, recants on torture claims

The first Tamil asylum seeker to be deported from Australia since the end of Sri Lanka’s 27-year civil conflict has recanted all claims of torture and mistreatment by Sri Lankan authorities in a government press conference held less than 24 hours after arriving back in Colombo.

Dayan Anthony was released from Sri Lankan police custody early Thursday evening after more than 16 hours straight of interrogation, and just in time to front a media conference to warn of the dangers of getting involved with people smugglers. 

An exhausted Mr Anthony insisted he had been well-treated by Sri Lankan police, despite fears held by his Melbourne-based sister and brother-in-law as well as refugee advocates that his life would be in danger if he was returned to Sri Lanka.

The federal government deported Mr Anthony last Wednesday, ignoring a last-ditch attempt by the UN Human Rights Commissioner to stop his deportation in Bangkok, saying he had exhausted all legal and ministerial avenues in a 27-month campaign for refugee status.

The Australian Tamil community has warned there is something strange about Mr Anthony’s decision to renounce his past claims of torture at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.

Australia Tamil Congress spokesman, Dr Bala Vigneswaran, expressed deep concern at the situation and suggested Mr Anthony had clearly been coached by the Sri Lankans during the marathon interrogation.

“They coach people before they put people to public media,” he said. “It should look obvious to normal thinking people, that this sounds fishy.”

“When you read through the lines, you can see there are issues. And why would you need 16 hours for interrogation, if the person is making up stories?” 

Mr Anthony, 30, had claimed to have been kidnapped and tortured in 2009 after he was seized and thrown into the back of one of Sri Lanka’s notorious white vans used in many disappearance cases.

He had also claimed to suffer severe back pain as a result of beatings sustained in Sri Lankan custody and had even given evidence to a hearing by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture late last year.

But yesterday, under the gaze of Sri Lankan government officials, he withdrew all claims of torture and mistreatment, saying he had lied on the advice of a Malaysian Tamil people smuggling agent in order to secure a refugee visa.

Mr Anthony told The Australian last night: “I don’t have a back problem. I don’t have psychological problems. I’m okay. I feel okay.” 

“When I was flying here I felt I would be tortured and beaten up but I am okay.

“There’s a fear psychosis that’s created that when you come to Sri Lanka you will be hung up and beaten. But I was taken to the (notorious Colombo CID’s) fourth floor and given a cup of tea.”

Mr Anthony lashed out at Australian authorities however for their disregard of their international human rights obligations, accusing immigration officials who accompanied him from Melbourne to Colombo of roughing him up. 

He said Australia was a racist country and that the white Australia policy remained a truism.

Spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, said the sudden renouncement by Mr Anthony of his past claims was “suspicious’

“I think it’s fairly clear than any recantation is a result of duress,” he said. (The Australian)

Written by  The Nation, Friday, 27 July 2012

Additional reporting: Joe Kelly

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