COLOMBO: The lawyer for a Sri Lankan author arrested after writing two books explaining why she converted to Islam from Buddhism denied she had links to Muslim extremists and said she is a victim of religious intolerance.
Lakshan Dias said police are questioning his client, Sarah Malini Perera, about possible links to Islamist insurgents but he said she has no such ties.
Perera has been detained by police for nearly two weeks under the country’s tough anti-terrorism law used against the now-defeated Tamil Tiger separatists.
The defense ministry has issued a 30-day detention order for Perera under the law, he said.
Perera lives in Bahrain but was visiting her native Sri Lanka when she was arrested.
She was trying to courier copies of her books to Bahrain when the courier office manager — who Dias says is linked to a powerful hard-line Buddhist group — informed police that Perera was carrying books offensive to Buddhism, the lawyer said.
Buddhism is the religion of some 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people, and the country’s constitution guarantees the faith a prominent role. Muslims are a minority ethnic-religious community, and relations with other groups are generally peaceful.
Authorities and many Sri Lankans are sensitive to perceived slights to Buddhism. Last month the government banned a planned concert by R&B star Akon after stone-throwing mobs protested a music video in which scantily clad women dance at a party where a Buddha statue can be seen in the background.
Dias said that police questioning indicates that they think Perera would not have written her books on her own and they suspect Islamist insurgents may be behind their publication.
The books were not published in Sri Lanka, and Dias said he has yet to read them.
Police have confirmed Perera’s arrest but have refused to say on what grounds she is detained. Police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody said Friday that he has no further information on the case.