Sri Lanka restores rights of humiliated ex-army chief Fonseka

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s new government on Wednesday exonerated former army chief Sarath Fonseka of all charges, including treason, that were filed by former president Mahinda Rajapakse, and restored his rank and medals.

New President Maithripala Sirisena used his executive powers to clear Fonseka of all the allegations that were framed after he mounted a failed bid to unseat Rajapakse at his January 2010 re-election.

Fonseka led troops to victory over the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, but then fell out with Rajapakse over who deserved the credit.

The decorated general was publicly humiliated, stripped of his rank, pension and medals collected in a 40-year career. He spent two years in jail and lost the right to contest elections for seven years.

The United States considered Fonseka a political prisoner and campaigned for his unconditional release which eventually came in May 2012.

However, his rights were not restored, keeping him away from politics.

The new president, who was backed by Fonseka in the run-up to the January 8 elections, granted a pardon Wednesday completely exonerating him of previous convictions as well as pending charges of treason.

"In line with the pardon, General Fonseka gets back his civic rights and he is now free to contest elections," an official at the president’s office told AFP.

After his 2010 poll defeat, Fonseka was detained on a charge of corruption relating to military procurements and then given a 30-month jail sentence.

In November 2011, he was sentenced to three more years in jail for saying that Tiger rebels who surrendered had been killed on the orders of Rajapakse’s  brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the then defence secretary.





Fonseka had also angered the government by saying he would testify before any international tribunal probing possible war crimes charges.

Sri Lanka has denied any civilians were killed by its troops at the climax of the 37-year war in 2009 which is believed to have left up to 100,000 people dead.

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