2 Australians Face Terror Charges

Police on Tuesday arrested two men accused of raising money for Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels on the pretext of collecting donations for victims of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, 32, and Sivarajah Yathavan, 36, were arrested in raids in the southern city of Melbourne after a two-year police investigation, authorities said.

They were charged with belonging to, financing and otherwise supporting a terrorist organization and face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

The suspects provided the rebels with electronic and marine equipment as well as money, prosecutor Mark Dean said.

But there was no evidence the men were planning an attack in Australia, said senior federal counterterrorism officer Frank Prendergast.

Along with the United States, Australia considers the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as the rebels are formally known, to be terrorists.

" Tsunami relief appeals were used as a vehicle for some of the fundraising," he said.

Sri Lanka was among the hardest-hit of a dozen countries struck by killer waves churned up by an undersea earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004.

At least 35,000 Sri Lankans were among the 230,000 people killed in the disaster, including many in the Tamil-controlled northeast.

The Tigers have been fighting for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority since 1983, following years of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. The conflict has killed at least 69,000 people. A 2002 cease-fire brought a brief respite, but fighting has increased steadily since 2005.