Coventry & Warwickshire

Buddha tattoo woman Naomi Coleman wins compensation

Naomi Coleman Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Naomi Coleman was deported from Sri Lanka

A woman who was deported from Sri Lanka for having a tattoo of the Buddha on her arm has won compensation.

Naomi Coleman, from Coventry, was detained for four days in April 2014.

Granting her compensation of 800,000 Sri Lankan rupees - about £4,000 - the country's Supreme Court said her treatment was "scandalous and horrifying" and ruled her rights had been violated.

Ms Coleman told the BBC Sinhala Service she was "overwhelmed" by the ruling.

Officers involved in her arrest were also ordered to pay her compensation.

Ms Coleman, a mental health nurse, took legal action against the Sri Lankan authorities after her return to the UK.

The court ruled there was "no legal basis" for her arrest and said she had been subject to "degrading treatment" by some officers and a prison guard.

In particular, one guard had "made several lewd, obscene and disparaging remarks of a sexually-explicit nature" towards Ms Coleman, while some police officers had forced her to give them money.

'Really frightened'

Her lawyer JC Weliamuna told the BBC her deportation had been "contrary to the law governing immigration and emigration".

Ms Coleman, who was arrested at Bandaranaike International Airport in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, said previously the detention had left her "really frightened".

She told the BBC on Wednesday she was "shocked" and "emotional" on hearing the news.

"Finally the court has actually seen it that I didn't do anything wrong," Ms Coleman said.

Asked whether she would go back to Sri Lanka, she replied: "I'm not sure, I don't know. Probably not.

"I'm very happy. I just wouldn't want it to happen to anybody else."

After an order was made to have her deported, Ms Coleman spent a night in prison in Negombo and two nights in a detention centre while security checks were carried out.

She said she told police she practised Buddhism and had attended meditation retreats and workshops in Thailand, India, Cambodia and Nepal.

Sri Lankan authorities take strict action against perceived insults to Buddhism, which is the religion of most of the island's Sinhalese population.

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