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General Sarath Fonseka to fight in Sri Lanka parliamentary elections

[Times Online UK, Saturday, 27 February 2010 09:39 No Comment]

General Sarath Fonseka, the former Sri Lankan army chief, who was arrested this month on coup charges, filed nomination papers yesterday to contest parliamentary elections on April 8 as the leader of an opposition alliance.

The soldier-turned-politician, who led the army to victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels last year, filed his application through his wife, Anoma, who is allowed to visit him in custody in the naval headquarters in Colombo. “It’s all gone through: he’s contesting for the Colombo district,” Tiran Alles, a businessman and close supporter of the general, told The Times.

His nomination came a day after the Government announced that General Fonseka would face extra charges in civil courts in two weeks, as well as trial in a military court at an unspecified time on charges of plotting a coup.

G. L. Peiris, the Trade Minister, said that the general would be charged on counts of fraud, condoning fraud, plotting against the Government, creating unrest within the army and keeping army deserters under his protection.

General Fonseka was hailed as a national hero by Sri Lanka’s ethnic Sinhalese majority after the defeat of the Tigers ended the island’s 26-year civil war. But he soon fell out with President Rajapaksa, resigned from the army and joined the opposition to contest a presidential election on January 26. Mr Rajapaksa won that election but the general refused to accept the result and, a few days later, he was arrested by military police at his campaign headquarters.

His arrest sparked several days of protests and expressions of concern from the US, the European Union and the United Nations — as well as Sri Lanka’s Buddhist clergy. The Government denies that his arrest is politically motivated — even though Mr Rajapaksa dissolved Parliament and set a date for the election almost immediately afterwards.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary, who is also the President’s brother, told India’s Tehelka magazine that the general would still face a military court. “He was clearly using the military for political purposes,” he said. “If we did not act on this, we would be signalling that in future others can get away with this.

General Fonseka accuses the Government of punishing him for running in the presidential poll, and trying to discourage him from doing so again in April. The general’s supporters also say that the Government wanted to prevent him from fulfilling his threat to testify in an international investigation into alleged war crimes.

“All these charges are bogus,” Mr Alles said, adding that the general’s health was suffering as he was being held in a cramped two-room apartment with blocked windows and no ventilation.

[Full Coverage]

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