Protesters hold up Sri Lankan team bus after supporters invade Cardiff pitch

Safe passage for Indian team bus as pitch invaders face heavy fine and jail; no comments from ICC or ECB

Updated: June 24, 2013 23:02 IST
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Cardiff: Hundreds of Britain's Tamil community held up the Sri Lankan team bus after Thursday's Champions Trophy semi-final here against India. They were protesting against Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa's government of carrying out widespread atrocities against civilians and combatants during the 2009 war that finally wiped out the Tamil Tiger insurgency.

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At least 400 protesters stood barely 500 yards away from the team pavilion and were cordoned off by security men. They were anti-Sri Lankan government slogans and also vented their ire at the cricket players. No protests were shown to the Indian team and their bus left as scheduled. (Read match report)

"The cricket team has no business to be here. How can they play in UK when they are killing our brothers in Sri Lanka," Raj Kumar told this correspondent. A Londoner, Raj Kumar was one of the leaders leading the group, said: "We have chosen the Champions Trophy because it is an international event."

Britain's Tamils had staged similar protests when Rajapaksa visited London during the Olympics last year.

The protesters has staged similar protests in London when Sri Lanka played England and Australia at the group stage. But Thursday's protest saw members of the Tamil community invading a cricket pitch for the first time.

The Sophia Gardens was invaded twice by Tamil protesters. The first time it happened was when the Sri Lankans were batting and two people ran into the pitch in the 50th over. They were soon overpowered by the security staff close to the pitch.

But the second 'invasion' saw at least six protestors running in from various sides from the 16,000-capacity stadium by the side of the Taff river. It was the 18th over of the Indian innings and Shikhar Dhawan was at the crease alongside Virat Kohli.

The protestors took out red flags of Tamil Eelam that had an emblem depicting a tiger jumping through a circle of bullets, with crossed bayonets on a red background. They had hid the flags in their pockets.

Security guards, who did not want to be quoted, said the protestors had slipped in as Indian supporters, draping themselves in the tri-colour. "It was impossible to recognize them because 90 per cent of the fans today were Indians," he said.

The International Cricket Council was caught off-guard. So far matches in the tournament have been peaceful with each team provided with at least three body guards as per anti-corruption and security norms. Claire Gatcum of the England and Wales Cricket Board said police were investigating the case and there were no comments to be made.

The protestors who invaded the pitch were arrested and could face fines up to 1000 Pounds each, it was learnt.

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