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Sri Lanka ex-army chief faces new trial

Last Updated: Thursday, July 29, 2010 - 20:34

Colombo: Sri Lanka`s former army chief
and defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka was brought
before the Colombo High Court on Thursday to answer charges of
provoking violence.

Fonseka, who already faces two courts martial and
two more criminal cases, was taken before a three-member
"trial-at-bar" for the first time and charged, his attorney
"The main charge is inciting people to violence,"
lawyer Nalin Laduwahetti said. Some 20 witnesses will be
called during the next hearing, on September 27.

The trial-at-bar dispenses with the normal practice
of trial by jury, and is normally used by the state to fast-
track legal proceedings in high-profile cases. If convicted,
Fonseka could be jailed for five to 20 years.

Fonseka was charged under tough emergency laws in
relation to accusations he incited violence by commenting to a
newspaper that surrendering rebel leaders were executed during
the country`s civil war, which ended in May 2009.

Fonseka maintained that the published comments --
which suggested defence secretary Gotabhaya Rakapakse, the
younger brother of the president, had ordered the executions
-- were in fact misquotes. Rajapakse has denied the charge.
A retired four-star general, Fonseka led the Sri
Lankan army to a spectacular victory against Tamil Tiger
rebels in May last year, ending the island`s 37-year
separatist conflict.

But he has since fallen out with the government and
says the legal cases against him are politically motivated.

Fonseka made an unsuccessful bid to unseat
Rajapakse at elections in January, but went on to win a seat
at April parliamentary polls.

He is currently in military custody, facing two
courts martial for allegedly dabbling in politics while in
uniform and illegally awarding contracts to a company in which
his son-in-law had an interest.

Fonseka`s party has said the cases against him are
fabricated and form part of a political vendetta.


First Published: Thursday, July 29, 2010 - 20:34

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