LTTE flags at Tamil rally not illegal: Toronto police (Lead)

March 19th, 2009 - 1:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, March 19 (IANS) Toronto police late Wednesday gave its clean chit to the use of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) flags by Tamil protesters at a rally here Monday.
Earlier, police had said they were investigating whether their action violated Canada’s new anti-terror laws.

A police spokesman said their lawyers found “nothing illegal” about the use of LTTE flags by the protesters. “The best advice that we have from our lawyers is that it does not contravene any law,” a spokesman was quoted as saying by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The LTTE flag features a tiger jumping through a ring of fire and two crossed rifles.

The current Conservative government banned the LTTE in 2006 for using suicide bombers and child soldiers in its goal for an independent homeland for Sri Lankan Tamils.

More than 50,000 Tamils had joined in a “human chain” in the heart of the city, urging Canada to lift its ban on the LTTE and seek support for an independent Tamil Eelam.

Justifying the use of the flag, Canadian Tamil Congress spokesman David Poopalapillai told IANS: “What we waved at the rally was the national flag of a future Tamil Eelam. It is not the flag of any organisation or the LTTE.”

He said: “Under the Canadian ban on the LTTE, one is (not) allowed to raise funds. But one is free to espouse any political cause in a peaceful manner. That’s what we did Monday in a peaceful manner.”

It is not the first time that protesters in Canada have waved the flags of banned organisations.

Supporters of Hezbollah and Hamas, which are also banned in Canada, have often waved their flags at protest rallies.

In fact, B’nai Brith, the national body of Canadian Jews, Wednesday urged the city police to expand its probe into the display of LTTE flags to include Hamas and Hezbollah.

“We commend the Toronto Police for launching an investigation into the display of the flag of the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist group outlawed in this country,” said Frank Dimant of B’nai Brith Canada.

“However, there have been many other instances of flags of other banned terrorist entities, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, that have been in full public view at rallies, most recently early this year during the period of the Gaza conflict,” the Jewish leader said.

Canada has the largest concentration of Sri Lankan Tamils after the island nation. Most of them came here as refugees in the 1980s and 1990s and settled in the Greater Toronto Area.

The LTTE has enjoyed widespread support in the 300,000-strong community.

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