Crown appeals 6-month sentence for fundraising for Sri Lankan terrorist group

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VANCOUVER — The federal government is appealing the six-month jail sentence for the first person convicted under Canada’s law against raising money for a terrorist group.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada announced Tuesday it had filed notice with the B.C. Court of Appeal objecting to the sentence given to Prapaharan Thambithurai of Maple, Ont.

Thambithurai pleaded guilty last month to raising $600 for the Tamil Tigers and collecting pledges for another $2,000 from Sri Lankans in the Vancouver area.

“In the circumstances of this case, the sentence imposed was inappropriate and inadequate,” the federal agency said in its notice of appeal.

In a news release, the prosecution service noted the maximum penalty for the charge is 10 years in prison.

The federal prosecutor handling the case declined to comment on the appeal, and a spokesman for the prosecution service couldn’t be reached for comment.

Thambithurai’s lawyer wasn’t immediately available to comment, either.

The 46-year-old pleaded guilty in May just before his trial was to begin on a charge under post-9-11 anti-terrorism legislation.

After the man’s guilty plea, the prosecutor described Thambithurai as a“ street-level canvasser” with a relatively insignificant role in raising money for the Tamil Tigers in Canada, but arguing that his actions still must be denounced and punished.

Prosecutor Martha Devlin recommended a two-year prison term, while Thambithurai’s lawyer asked for a three-year suspended sentence.

Thambithurai was arrested in New Westminster in March 2008 and charged with directly or indirectly providing money, property or services to a terrorist group.

According to an agreed statement of facts read in court last month, Thambithurai, who once lived in Vancouver, spent two days visiting local Tamils, asking them for money to fund humanitarian work in Sri Lanka.

The Crown made a point of saying that at no point did Thambithurai use threats or violence to seek donations.

Thambithurai told the people he visited he was raising money on behalf of the World Tamil Movement, and later admitted to investigators he knew some of the money — he estimated as much as half — would inevitably end up funding the Tigers. 

The federal government listed the World Tamil Movement as a banned terrorist organization three months after Thambithurai’s arrest. The group has said it will challenge that designation, but so far has not done so. 

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were listed as a terrorist group in 2006. 

While Thambithurai was the first person charged and convicted of fundraising for a terrorist group, at least one other person was charged earlier under a related section that forbids raising money to fund terrorist activity. 

Ottawa software developer Momin Khawaja was sentenced last year to 10-1/2 years in prison after he was convicted of five counts of financing and facilitating terrorism. He has since launched an appeal of that conviction. 

Organizations: Tamil Tigers, Public Prosecution Service of Canada, B.C. Court World Tamil Movement Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Canada, New Westminster Sri Lanka Ottawa

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