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Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 15:40 UK

UK transfers renegade Tamil Tiger

Col Karuna, a  former Tamil Tiger commander in Sri Lanka
Col Karuna was once second-in-command in the Tamil Tigers

A former leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels who was jailed in the UK in January has been transferred to an immigration detention centre.

Colonel Karuna was sent to jail in January for identity fraud after being arrested in London late last year.

He was carrying an apparently genuine Sri Lankan diplomatic passport issued under a false name.

It is not clear if he will be deported. Human rights groups want him charged in the UK with war crimes.

That now seems unlikely.

The Crown Prosecution Service - which is responsible for taking cases to court in England and Wales which have been investigated by the police - told the BBC Tamil Service that there is "insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for any offences in the case of... Col Karuna."

The British Home Office refused to give details of Col Karuna's case.

A spokeswoman would only tell the BBC that he "remains detained under immigration powers".

He had served half of a nine-month sentence after being found guilty of identity fraud.

Col Karuna's lawyer, David Phillips, says he has not claimed asylum so far and although he could apply from the detention centre his chances would not be very high because he failed to declare his intention to seek asylum immediately upon arrival in the UK.

British 'concern'

The British High Commission in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, said in a statement on Friday: "We are deeply concerned that Karuna and his faction have allegedly been responsible for murder and abductions and are still believed to be involved in intimidation and child recruitment."

It also said that "We have made clear our concerns at the circumstances by which Karuna travelled to the UK."

During his UK court case, Col Karuna said he had received the false diplomatic passport from the Sri Lankan government.

He said the defence secretary in Colombo, who is also the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had arranged the documents for him.

Col Karuna, whose real name is V Muralitharan, was arrested on 2 November at a flat in the London district of Kensington.

Sri Lanka's government denies it has any links to Col Karuna.

Fighting intensified

Col Karuna is one of the most controversial figures in Sri Lanka's prolonged civil war.

He was the commander of the Tamil Tiger rebels in eastern Sri Lanka until 2004, when he changed sides and started fighting alongside government forces.

Troops under his command - both before and after he changed sides - are accused of torture, murder and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Human rights groups have urged the British government to try him for war crimes. But they say witnesses have been unwilling to come forward to testify against him.

London-based human rights group Amnesty International said it was not made clear to "victims and prospective witnesses" that the UK has jurisdiction over cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Both the Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan military have faced repeated accusations of gross human rights abuses.

Fighting in the north of the island this year has intensified after the army drove the rebels out of their eastern strongholds last year.

In January the government formally withdrew from a ceasefire which both sides were supposed to be observing, even though fighting grew steadily worse last year.




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