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Asia

Sri Lankan ex-army chief convicted

A military court has convicted Sarath Fonseka of meddling in politics while on active service. It has also stripped the general of his rank and medals. The hearing before a three-member tribunal lasted five months.

General Sarath Fonseka ran in the parliamentary elections this year despite his detention and won a seat

General Sarath Fonseka ran in the parliamentary elections this year despite his detention and won a seat

The 58-year-old former army chief was arrested after a political tussle between him and President Mahinda Rajakpaksa.

He had quit as Chief of Defense Staff months after helping to successfully bring an end to the civil war in Sri Lanka between the military and the Tamil Tigers that lasted for over two decades. In January, he ran against his former ally in presidential elections and lost.

Fonseka was instrumental in bringing an end to the civil war in Sri Lanka but the army has been accused of war crimes

Fonseka was instrumental in bringing an end to the civil war in Sri Lanka but the army has been accused of war crimes

But two weeks later, he was arrested and accused of trying to secure a place in a political party while still serving in the military and of attempting to stage a coup.

Fonseka denies all charges

Fonseka, who has been in military custody for months, has denied the allegation. He also denies charges that he engaged in corrupt deals. A separate court martial is hearing this case.

The court martial was concluded without any representation by any defense lawyers. One of his lawyers, Sunil Watagala, said he had not been informed of the sentence. He said he would appeal. Fonseka's Democratic National Alliance party also rejected the guilty verdict saying that the court martial had been illegally constituted.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has to approve the conviction

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has to approve the conviction

The general also faces civilian charges of employing army deserters. If convicted, he could face 20 years in jail.

Friday's conviction still needs to be approved by President Rajapaksa, officials said. The government has purged the security forces of senior officers who were thought to have been loyal supporters of General Fonseka.

act/Reuters/dpa/AFP
Editor: Disha Uppal

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