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S.Lanka’s ex-army chief back in court as MP-elect

[AFP, Monday, 19 April 2010 11:51 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s former army chief Sarath Fonseka appeared in the dock at a court martial on Monday for the first time since winning a parliamentary seat in elections earlier this month.

Fonseka last year led the military to victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels but later fell out with President Mahinda Rajapakse and unsuccessfully tried to unseat him in a presidential election in January.

He faces two sets of charges — corrupt military procurements and engaging in politics while in uniform. The four-star general denies all the allegations and says they are part of a political vendetta.

Monday’s hearing was the first since Fonseka secured a parliamentary seat in the April 8 polls, which were won easily by Rajapakse’s party.

The court martial, which is being conducted behind closed doors at the tightly-guarded naval headquarters, was adjourned after unspecified legal arguments, a military official who declined to be named told AFP.

"He was at the hearing and the court adjourned till tomorrow (Tuesday) after objections raised by his lawyers," the official said.

Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance, which has won five seats out of the 180 declared so far in the 225-member assembly, says the government is trying to prevent him from attending the opening of the new parliament on Thursday.

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.

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