Page last updated at 09:39 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Sri Lankan editor JS Tissainayagam gets bail

JS Tissainayagam (Photo: Free Media Movement)
Mr Tissainayagam was arrested in March 2008

A Sri Lankan Tamil journalist sentenced to 20 years in prison last year will be released on bail pending appeal, his lawyer has said.

JS Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 and charged with inciting violence in articles for his magazine.

He was also accused of receiving funds from Tamil Tiger rebels. He has denied supporting violence.

Mr Tissainayagam's lawyer said a court had ordered the journalist to surrender his passport and pay $500 for bail.

He is likely to be released on Tuesday.

Mr Tissainayagam's case has received widespread attention in Sri Lanka, and international rights groups have been campaigning for his release.

Correspondents say that Mr Tissainayagam's sentence was the harshest given to a Sri Lankan journalist in recent years.

Mr Tissainayagam, who was found guilty of "causing communal disharmony", was one of a handful of journalists mentioned last May by US President Barack Obama, who called them "emblematic examples" of reporters jailed for their work.

The Sri Lankan government said Mr Obama had been misinformed.

Last September, Mr Tissainayagam was given an award for courageous and ethical journalism by the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders.

He was named the first recipient of the Peter Mackler Award.

In May 2009 Sri Lanka defeated Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority.

It is estimated that more than 70,000 people were killed during the 26-year conflict.

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