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Sri Lanka’s opposition leader ends hunger strike

[AP, Tuesday, 9 March 2010 14:50 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s detained opposition leader has ended a hunger strike after just one day after authorities allowed him to use a telephone again, a party official said Tuesday.

Former army chief Sarath Fonseka was arrested a month ago, accused of sedition, after he lost a January presidential election to incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He is detained in a naval complex in Colombo. Only his wife, lawyer and doctors are allowed to visit him.

Fonseka began a hunger strike on Sunday after being barred from using a telephone his wife brings.

Tiran Alles, an opposition party official, said that Fonseka stopped his fast Monday night after authorities allowed him to use the phone to talk to his two daughters, who live abroad. He refused to use a phone provided by the military.

Fonseka’s office said his use of a telephone is supported by a court ruling but the military says it is just a concession from the current army commander. The army says that Fonseka is only allowed to use the phone to talk to his daughters.

Despite his detention, Fonseka plans to contest a seat in April 8 parliamentary elections at the head of a six-party alliance.

Rajapaksa has faced international criticism for the arrest of Fonseka, who led the army to its victory last year over the long-running Tamil Tiger insurgency before resigning his command and running in elections against the president.

The activists and supporters of Fonseka-led Democratic National Alliance held a protest rally on Monday, demanding the government unconditionally release Fonseka.

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