- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) | Four U.S. supporters of a ruthless Sri Lankan rebel group recently vanquished by government forces there pleaded guilty Tuesday to terrorism charges.

The defendants included Karunakaran Kandasamy, identified by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn as the Tamil Tigers’ top U.S. representative and mastermind of a covert campaign that raised and laundered millions of dollars through a charity front organization.

Kandasamy, 51, “has accepted full responsibility for his actions in this matter,” defense attorney Charles A. Ross said outside court.

Mr. Ross said he will argue that the complexities of the civil war and Kandasamy’s poor health make the former cabdriver a good candidate for a “merciful sentence.” His client faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing on Nov. 11.

Last month, the Tamil Tigers admitted defeat in their 25-year war with the Sri Lankan government. The fighting had killed more than 70,000 people, including reclusive rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The rebels, who once controlled a de facto state in the island nation’s north, had been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for minority Tamils after decades of marginalization by the Sinhalese majority. Responsible for hundreds of suicide attacks - including the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi - the Tamil Tigers were branded terrorists by the United States, the European Union and India and shunned internationally.

U.S. federal authorities in New York had sought to cut off support for the group by arresting sympathizers in their immigrant community in 2006 and 2007 on charges of conspiring to provide material aid to a terrorist organization.

Among the other defendants who pleaded guilty Tuesday, one was accused of helping buy explosives, missiles, anti-aircraft guns and other weapons for the Tamil Tigers. Another was charged with trying to bribe U.S. officials to remove the group from the terrorism list.

Earlier this year, four other defendants pleaded guilty to similar charges on the eve of their trial in Brooklyn.

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