PEN International is deeply concerned by the arrest and ongoing detention of award-winning writer Shakthika Sathkumara, charged with inciting religious hatred and violating international human rights law under Section 3 of Sri Lanka’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No. 56 of 2007 (ICCPR Act 2007) and Article 291B of the Penal Code. Sathkumara was arrested on 1 April 2019 in connection with ‘Ardha’ (‘Half’), a short story published on Facebook, in which he reportedly makes references to homosexuality and child abuse amongst Buddhist monks.

According to media reports, a complaint filed by the Buddhist Information Centre claimed that the story was derogatory and defamatory to Buddhism. Detained pending the completion of the Polgahawela police’s investigation, Sathkumara’s next hearing before a Magistrate is scheduled for 25 June 2019.

If once the investigation is completed and he is charged under the above provisions of law, Sathkumara could face up to 10 years in prison. PEN International believes that Shakthika Sathkumara is being held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.