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Sri Lanka court rejects Rajapaksa election challenge

[Reuters, Friday, 29 October 2010 14:01 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s supreme court on Friday threw out a challenge to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s January re-election by his jailed rival, former army chief Sarath Fonseka.

Fonseka garnered 40 percent to his former commander-in-chief’s 59 percent at the Jan. 26 poll, which prompted the former general to accuse the president of rigging the vote and then sue to have the results nullified.

Election observers pronounced the vote free and fair.

"The five-member bench has dismissed the petition," Fonseka’s attorney, Upul Jayasuriya, told Reuters. "General Fonseka instructed his lawyers to file an appeal at the international courts in Geneva."

It took less than a year for the career infantry officer to fall from the height of glory as the army commander who led the May 2009 defeat of the Tamil Tigers in a three-decade civil war, to a stinging election defeat and later prison.

Fonseka, who won a parliamentary seat in an April election, lost it after being sentenced to 30 months’ hard labour when a court-martial convicted him of misappropriation of funds while serving as army commander. [ID:nSGE67C0EP] [ID:nSGE68G0G5]

An earlier military tribunal that found him guilty of engaging in politics while in uniform had already stripped him of his pension and rank. Rajapaksa had made him Sri Lanka’s first serving four-star general for his role in the victory.

The general and the president fell out quickly after the war over what Fonseka said was a sidelining to a newly-created post with no powers, chief of defence staff, and false accusations that he was plotting a coup.

Fonseka, who was injured on the battelfield and in 2006 narrowly survived a Tamil Tiger suicide bombing, quit the military in November and became the rallying figure for a group of opposition parties united solely to beat Rajapaksa.

[Full Coverage]

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