Sri Lanka convicts ex-army chief

Sarath Fonseka faces three-year jail term after military court finds him guilty of favouring son-in-law's firm.

    Fonseka claims the government is seeking revenge against him for challenging the president [EPA]

    A former Sri Lankan army chief credited with vanquishing the separatist Tamil Tigers has been convicted of fraud by a military court.

    In a decision that must be ratified by Mahinda Rajapakse, the country's president, the court on Friday found Sarath Fonseka guilty of favouring an arms company run by his son-in law, a top military official told AFP news agency.

    The conviction may result in a three-year jail sentence.

    His conviction was widely expected after he was stripped of his four-star general rank last month in a similar court-martial, which found him guilty of involvement in politics while in uniform.

    "The chairman of the court read out its decision and it must now be ratified by the president," the official said, adding that the closed-door court would make no formal announcement.

    Fonseka's lawyers had refused to make final submissions in the former army chief's defence after accusing the court of serious irregularities.

    Friend turned foe

    Fonseka, 59, fell out with the Rajapakse and unsuccessfully tried to unseat him in January’s presidential elections following the military victory over the rebels.

    He quit the military last November to become an opposition politician, but has since been embroiled in numerous court cases, which he says are being orchestrated by the government.

    Fonseka was arrested two weeks after his defeat in the presidential elections and has remained in military custody since. 

    He won a seat in parliamentary elections in April, however, allowing him to attend parliament.

    Fonseka has said the government is seeking revenge for his decision to stand against the president and to keep him from speaking in parliament.

    The 37-year ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka ended in May last year when government forces defeated the Tamil Tiger separatist group which had fought since 1972 for a Tamil homeland.

    The victory boosted the popularity of Rajapakse among the ethnic Sinhalese majority, but the military campaign has since been marred by war crime allegations.

    Fonseka angered the government by saying he would willingly to testify before any international war crimes tribunal. Rajapakse has vowed to prevent any such probe.

    The United Nations estimates that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of fighting between government troops and the Tamil Tigers.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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