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Sri Lanka rally for jailed former army chief

[AFP, Tuesday, 8 February 2011 18:26 No Comment]

The wife of Sri Lanka's jailed ex-military chief Sarath Fonseka, Anoma Fonseka (R) addresses supporters Thousands of Sri Lankan opposition activists staged a protest outside a jail on Tuesday to demand the release of former army chief and defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka.

Supporters of the JVP, or People’s Liberation Front, shouted anti-government slogans and carried placards demanding freedom for Fonseka who is serving a 30-month sentence after being convicted by a court martial.

The JVP organised the demonstration outside the Welikada jail to mark the first anniversary of Fonseka’s arrest by the military, just two weeks after he lost the January 2010 presidential vote.

"We will not give up our struggle until he is released," Fonseka’s wife, Anoma, told the protesters.

Sri Lankan opposition activists stage a protest outside a jail in Colombo Police closed a section of the main road outside the prison in a bid to prevent a repeat of Friday’s violence when government supporters clashed with Fonseka loyalists.

At least four opposition MPs were among a dozen people wounded in the Friday night attack, while cars belonging to opposition lawmakers were smashed by ruling party activists.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) is planning another protest in Colombo on Wednesday to press for Fonseka’s release.

Mass protests erupted in Sri Lanka soon after Fonseka’s arrest a year ago.

Fonseka is widely credited with leading troops to crush Tamil Tiger rebels and ending the island’s decades-long separatist war in May 2009. However, he then fell out with President Mahinda Rajapakse.

A court martial found him guilty of irregularities when he was army chief and also stripped him of his pension and medals.

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