Melbourne : Two Melbourne men have appreared in court to face charges of providing material support and funding to Sir Lankaâ€™s Tamil Tigers rebels.
Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, 32, from the suburb of Mt Waverley, and Sivarajah Yathavan, 36, from Vermont South here, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court Tuesday after their arrests earlier in the day, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) news agency reported.
They were each charged with intentionally being a member of a terrorist organization and providing support and making funds available to a terrorist organization. The offences were alleged to have occurred between July 6, 2002, and May 1, 2007.
Commonwealth Public Prosecutor Mark Dean said the defendants collected money in Australia that was sent through various channels in Asia to the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers, the AAP report said.
Dean also said the pair supported the organization by providing electronic and marine equipment.
He said authorities searched the mens’ homes on Tuesday where further evidence was obtained.
Defence lawyer Rob Stary said more information on the nature of the charges the men faced was needed so they could apply for bail. The men were remanded in custody until July 24 for a committal mention.
An earlier AAP report said the two were arrested in a series of counter-terrorism raids in Melbourne and Sydney after a two-year investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Victorian State Police.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Frank Prendergast was reported by AAP as saying the charges related to the men’s alleged involvement with the LTTE who have been waging a bloody secessionist campaign against the Sri Lankan government since the 1970s.
There was no evidence the two men were planning a terrorist attack on Australian soil, said Prendergast, who added: â€œThe offences that they have been charged with relate to activities which occurred in Australia which were directed at supporting the LTTE in Sri Lanka.
“It will be alleged in court that these men are members of an organization engaging in terrorist activity overseas and they have been providing active, material support to that group. We would be alleging that tsunami relief appeals were used as a vehicle for some of the fund-raising.”
AAP said both men were charged with intentionally being a member of a terrorist organization, with providing support to a terrorist organization and with intentionally receiving funds from or making funds available to a terrorist organization.
“This activity … has been designed and undertaken to raise money to enable illegal activity to take place in Sri Lanka ,” police alleged.
“We’re concerned that that sort of thing is taking place in Australia, that Australian citizens are being duped … into making contributions to what they believe to be honest fund-raising activities in terms of relief for people in distress.”
Prendergast refused to confirm whether the Sri Lankan government had had any input but said several international law enforcement agencies had been involved in the overall investigation.
If they are found guilty, the two face a maximum of 25 years in jail.