Ruki Fernando. Pic: AP.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan police say they’ve released two prominent human rights activists whose arrest drew international criticism.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana says Ruki Fernando of Colombo-based INFORM and the Rev. Praveen Mahesan, a Catholic priest, were released late Tuesday.

Their arrest on Sunday drew wide criticism from international rights monitors and the United States. Rights groups said the arrest was arbitrary and an attempt to silence criticism in the country.

On Wednesday, nearly two dozen rights and trade union activists protested against the arrest and urged the government to ensure the safety of rights defenders.

Sri Lanka faces criticism for cracking down on rights activists and failing to probe abuses committed during its civil war, which ended in 2009.

Ruki Fernando wrote this article for Asian Correspondent last year: Analysis: The assault on freedom of expression in Sri Lanka