A FORMER York student and human rights campaigner was arrested and detained by anti-terrorism police in Sri Lanka.

Friends of Ruki Fernando, who has now been released, said they were extremely concerned about his safety when he was detained in the north of the country.

They welcomed news of his release late on Tuesday, two days after they heard of his arrest, and Ruki sent a message thanking all those who worked to free him.

He added: “I am convinced our safety and release was because of all the support and concerns expressed by so many in Sri Lanka and across the world. Let’s try to help others who need similar support.”

Ruki spent six months in York when he was awarded a protective fellowship at the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR). He went home to Sri Lanka last March but on Monday the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders reported that Ruki and another human rights defender, Rev Praveen Mahesan, had been arrested in the heavily militarised Kilinochchi region.

They had been investigating the arrest of another campaigner Balendran Jeyakumari, who was fighting the enforced disappearances of people in the area, and her 13-year old daughter Vithuskaini.

The girl was released, but it was thought the three campaigners were held and questioned.

CAHR coordinator Sanna Eriksson said they had been concerned that Ruki was held under the country’s”Prevention of Terrorism Act” which had been used to detain people for long periods without charge.

Yesterday, Ruki spoke to other human rights workers and lawyers in Sri Lanka.