Lankan Opposition demands release of ex-army chief Fonseka

Colombo, Feb 8 (PTI) Thousands of activists of SriLankan opposition parties today held a protest rally in thecapital, seeking the release of former army chief SarathFonseka, who has been sentenced to a 30-month rigorous jailterm for corruption in defence deals.

Opposition cadres in black attire gathered outside theWelikda prison in the capital, where the former army chief isheld, demanding his release.

Opposition parties, including the supporters of theJVP, jointly demanded the government release the 60-year-oldFonseka, who appeared in the high court over his allegedstatement to a newspaper that the military had ordered theshooting of the surrendered LTTE cadres in the final stages ofthe ethnic war in May 2009.

They claimed President Mahinda Rajapaksa jailed himbecause the "war hero" had tried to unseat him in the January26 presidential election last year.

"We will not give up our struggle until he isreleased," said Fonseka''s wife Anoma.

Fonseka was arrested exactly a year ago and laterconvicted by two military court martials on separate chargesfor doing politics while in uniform and also formisappropriation in military procurement.

His rank was stripped and pension was suspended afterthe first court martial, followed by a 30-month jail term withhard labour last September.

With the conviction, he was unseated from parliamentwhich he won in the general election in April after hisunsuccessful attempt to unseat the incumbent President.

Sri Lanka''s main opposition United National Party(UNP) plans another protest rally tomorrow for the release ofthe former top general, who played a key role in the defeat ofseparatist Tamil Tigers in May 2009.

The LTTE waged a bloody three-decade civil war for aseparate state for the Tamils of Sri Lanka, allegingdiscrimination against the minority community at the hands ofthe majority Sinhalas.

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