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Sri Lanka’s ex-army chief could die in custody: wife

[AFP, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 07:48 No Comment]

The wife of Sri Lanka’s detained ex-army chief Monday accused authorities of preventing her husband from receiving vital medical treatment and said he could die in custody.

Sarath Fonseka’s health had deteriorated since he was held at the naval headquarters in Colombo after his arrest on February 8 and was in need of urgent medical attention, said his wife, Anoma Fonseka.

"I suspect that the government is insisting that he is not suffering from any ailment to deny him specialist treatment and thereby ensure his natural death in custody," she said in a statement.

Anoma Fonseka said her husband needed specialised care since suffering injuries in an April 2006 suicide assassination attempt blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, whom he eventually crushed in May last year as army chief.

Following concerns raised by Sarath Fonseka’s political allies, the military had denied earlier that the general’s health was failing and said a medical examination had found nothing wrong.

"A naval doctor and another specialist examined General Fonseka on Monday morning," the military said in a statement, adding that the doctors had not noticed any health problems with the former army chief.

Fonseka, who led the military to victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels last year, fell out with President Mahinda Rajapakse and unsuccessfully tried to unseat him in elections in January.

He faces one set of charges that he interfered in politics before he retired from the army, and another alleging he was involved in corrupt arms deals.

Fonseka denies all the charges and says they are part of a vendetta against him. A court martial hearing is scheduled to reopen on April 6 while the country’s appeals court will on Tuesday hear a petition against his arrest.

He is in the running for the April 8 parliamentary elections as a candidate for the Democratic National Alliance, which is backed by the main Marxist party, the People’s Liberation Front, also known as the JVP.

Rajapakse has been accused by political opponents and international human rights groups of suppressing dissent since his resounding re-election.

Fonseka entered politics after quitting the military in November, six months after the separatist Tamil rebels were finally crushed.

When he resigned from the military, Fonseka said that Rajapakse suspected him of planning a coup.

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