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Sri Lanka’s ex-army chief faces new criminal charge

[AFP, Tuesday, 13 July 2010 17:00 No Comment]

ALeqM5jkvx7M6_UDaXuwzpnlIMPijLOURQ Sri Lankan police have filed a new case against former army chief and defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka for allegedly employing military deserters, his party said Tuesday.

Fonseka, who is also now an opposition lawmaker, is accused of employing 10 army deserters in the run-up to the January presidential poll he contested unsuccessfully against President Mahinda Rajapakse.

He was named as an accused in a criminal court hearing Monday and formal charges are expected when the court reconvenes on July 26. If convicted, Fonseka faces a possible 20-year prison sentence.

On Monday, the government had also pressed 21 new charges against Fonseka in connection with another case in which he is accused of awarding irregular contracts while serving as army chief.

"This a political vendetta against a war hero," opposition lawmaker Vijitha Herath, who is part of Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance coalition party, said on Tuesday.

Fonseka is currently in military custody, facing two courts martial for allegedly dabbling in politics while in uniform and illegally awarding contracts to a company where his son-in-law had an interest.

Fonseka led the Sri Lankan army to a spectacular victory against Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year, ending the island’s 37-year separatist conflict.

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