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‘In that place, I could hear screams’

November 8, 2017
His shadow is reflected on a wall as a man known as Witness 244 speaks during an interview in London, Thursday, July 20, 2017. Most nights he wakes to nightmares and survives on a mixture of sleeping pills and anti-depressants. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
His shadow is reflected on a wall as a man known as Witness 244 speaks during an interview in London, Thursday, July 20, 2017. Most nights he wakes to nightmares and survives on a mixture of sleeping pills and anti-depressants. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

More than 50 Tamil men seeking political asylum in Europe have come forward to say they were raped, branded and beaten repeatedly by Sri Lanka’s current security forces.

The strangers say they were accused of trying to revive the Tamil Tiger rebel group, which the government fought in a bloody 26-year civil war that ended in 2009. They said the abuse occurred from early 2016 to mid-2017.

Sri Lanka has denied the allegations.

The men allowed The Associated Press to have their extensive scars on their legs, faces, chests and groins photographed in July and August. Here are some of their stories:

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The first time the army came looking for the 31-year-old man was in 2004 when he said he was working as a reporter. That time he was only held for two weeks before he was released. Soon after, however, the man now known as Witness #244 was detained again. This time he was held for 3 months.

“In that place, I could hear screams and constant sobbing,” he said.

He was eventually released after his father paid a bribe and soon headed to the capital where he found work as a grocery store delivery man. His new life was short-lived when he was abducted a third time in 2007.

There, he said he was waterboarded, hung by his wrists and beaten. He was eventually charged with terrorism offenses and released on bail.

Fearing he would be tortured again, however, his uncle helped him to escape to France via Dubai and the Ivory Coast.

Once in France, he applied for asylum in 2008 but was rejected after six years. This time, his family arranged him to be smuggled back into the country for fear that if he was deported he would be arrested and tortured again.

His freedom lasted for a while.

“By this point, there had been the election and a change of government. I thought something good would come out of it and I was feeling optimistic. Then, in ... 2016, I was going to work and saw a white van coming through.”

This time, he said, he was held for five months _ a time when he said he was burned with iron rods, cigarette butts and beaten on the soles of his feet. He said he was also sexually abused.

After his release, he once again fled to Europe.

“The day after I arrived in the UK, I tried to commit suicide (painkiller overdose) and was held in a hospital for three weeks. Even though I knew I was safe, I just couldn’t stop hearing all the screams.”

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