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Rights group asks Sri Lanka to charge or free Tamil students arrested for honoring dead rebels

A human rights group has urged Sri Lanka to formally charge or release four university students detained on allegations of terrorism for honoring Tamil Tiger rebels who died during the country's bloody civil war.

The students in the northern city of Jaffna were arrested by anti-terrorism police for lighting lamps in honor of Tamil rebels to mark their annual heroes' day on Nov. 27. This month they were transferred to a rehabilitation center housing former Tamil Tigers.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the arrests sends a "dangerous message" that any Tamil can be detained arbitrarily and indefinitely.

Government soldiers defeated the rebels in 2009, ending a quarter-century bid to create an independent state for the country's ethnic minority Tamils.