Sri Lanka ex-army chief calls for freedom, 'rule of law'

[JURIST] Former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] appeared before parliament [official website] Thursday to call for both his freedom and respect for the "rule of law." Fonseka argued for his release from what he characterized as an "illegal detention" [Al Jazeera report] and a byproduct of injustice, while also insisting on democratic improvements [BBC report] and institution of the "rule of law." He was temporarily released from military custody in order to attend the session, to which he traveled under guard. Fonseka faces two separate court-martials, charging him with participating in politics while in uniform and with improperly awarding army procurement contracts, but he successfully won a seat in parliament in elections held earlier this month. He maintains that the allegations are politically motivated. Fonseka is scheduled for a hearing before the Sri Lankan Supreme Court [official website] on April 26, where he will challenge his detention.

Earlier this month, Fonseka's trials were postponed [JURIST report] to allow the Sri Lankan Court of Appeals [official website] to examine the legality of court-martials. Fonseka was arrested [JURIST report] by the military in February after losing presidential elections held the previous month. In March, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court criticized [JURIST report] the government's treatment of the general. Sarath Nanda Silva, who retired from the Sri Lankan Supreme Court last year, accused the government of using the military justice system to prevent Fonseka from participating in the upcoming elections, and of violating Fonseka's civil rights. Silva also said that Fonseka's arrest was made in violation of the country's constitution [text].



 

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