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Free Detained Poet Ahnaf Jazeem

The Sri Lankan poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem has been arbitrarily detained for over a year. He was arrested on May 16, 2020 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, in connection to a Tamil-language collection of poems called Navarasam (நவரசம்), as well as other unsubstantiated claims of exposing his students to ‘extremist’ content and ideology.

The Sri Lankan authorities reportedly found copies of Navarasam at a school that was being investigated for its alleged links to the Easter Sunday Terror attacks. Despite the fact the book is currently listed in Sri Lanka’s national library, having never been banned, the authorities decided to allegedly detain Ahnaf Jazeem for its content, among other reasons.

Sri Lankan authorities have continued to argue that the contents of Navarasam promote extremism. However, this has been flatly rejected by the author and his legal representative, Sanjaya Wilson Jayasekera, who views Ahnaf Jazeem’s detention as being ‘directed at entrenching anti-Muslim racism’. Macbool Alimmohamed Nuhman, a renowned Tamil language professor has also contested the authorities’ interpretation of Ahnaf Jazeem’s poetry, stating that ‘there are several poems against extremism, violence, and war in this collection’.

No charges have been filed and he has been detained in squalid conditions which have affected his health. He has not been given unrestricted access to his relatives and his lawyers. The Sri Lankan government has produced no credible evidence of wrongdoing by him before a court.

Urge the Sri Lankan government to free Ahnaf Jazeem immediately.


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Inspector General
Sri Lanka