Sri Lanka ex-army chief sentenced to 3 more years for implicating official in war crimes

[JURIST] A jailed former Sri Lanka army chief was sentenced on Friday to an additional three years in prison for reportedly implicating his country's defense secretary in war crimes at the end of the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war [CFR backgrounder]. In the High Court [official website] ruling, two out of three judges found that the comments made to a newspaper by former officer Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile] had breached Sri Lanka's emergency laws that were put in place during the war. According to prosecutors, Fonseka told the Sunday Leader [media website] newspaper on December 13, 2009, that he was informed that secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaska, the brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaska [BBC profile], ordered not to accommodate surrendering soldiers. Fonseka, however, has long contended that he was misquoted [AFP report], and that such drastic penalties against the freedoms of speech will leave a black mark on the history of the Sri Lankan judiciary.

By the end of the 26-year civil war in 2009, Fonseka had successfully led the Sri Lankan army to victory over the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, and both he and Mahinda Rajapaksa became popular in the country's political scene. However, shortly after his political defeat in the January 2010 presidential election, Fonseka was arrested and found guilty in August 2010 for engaging in politics while still on active duty [JURIST report]. Even before his hearings first began [JURIST report] in July 2010, Fonseka has maintained throughout the ordeal that his treatment is against the rule of law, and that vast democratic improvements [JURIST report] are a necessity within the Sri Lankan government.

 

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