Sri Lanka high court rejects former army chief's appeal

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka [official website] ruled Tuesday that the court-martial of former army chief and parliament minister Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was legal and bars him from serving in government. Fonseka had appealed [DPA report] to Sri Lanka's highest court, arguing that the military tribunal which convicted him on corruption charges [JURIST report] last September did not have jurisdiction because he had retired from military service. The court disagreed, holding that tribunal was legal and constitutional. The ruling also focused on the question [The Hindu report] of whether the court-martial could be considered "any court" under the Sri Lankan Constitution [text] for purposes of disqualifying a person from serving in government. The court ruled that it does, preventing Fonseka from returning to his seat in parliament. The conviction also means that he will lose civic rights [BBC report], including the right to vote for six years, and carries a 30-month jail sentence.

Last September, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile; JURIST news archive] ratified the 30-month prison sentence [JURIST report] for Fonseka after a court convicted him of corruption. The court found that Fonseka gave preference to an arms company operated by his son-in-law. Fonseka, who is credited with bringing an end to the 26-year civil war, was arrested shortly after his defeat in the January 2009 presidential election in which he ran against Rajapaksa. He has been held in military custody since the arrest. Fonseka's lawyers accused the court of irregularities, and Fonseka has accused the government of seeking revenge for his decision to run in the presidential elections. Fonseka was dishonorably discharged and stripped of his rank, medals and pension.

 

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