Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sri Lanka Army completes summary of evidence against Fonseka

B. Muralidhar Reddy - The summary of evidence over charges against retired General Sarath Fonseka in compliance with provisions of the Army Act was completed and handed over to the Commander of the Army Jagath Jayasuriya.

A special communiqué issued by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) on Monday said the legal officers in the Army Directorate of Legal Services are now in the process of reviewing the contents and maintain there is a prima facie case against Gen. Fonseka on more than five charges under the Army Act.

The Army Commander, in receipt of legal consultations is expected to appoint the Court Martial for trial shortly. Gen. Fonseka was picked up by the military police on the night of February 8 on a number of charges.

Over 200 personnel led by a Major General descended on Gen. Fonseka’s election office while he was discussing the upcoming parliamentary elections with Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Somawansa Amerasinghe, his party parliamentarian Sunil Hadunnetti, and political leaders Rauf Hakeem and Mano Ganesan. Gen. Fonseka argued in vain with the officers that since he was a civilian he could be arrested only by the police and not the military.

The SLA communiqué said, “The summary of evidence, recorded by Army Chief of Staff Major General Daya Rathnayaka as appointed Recording Officer was completed within a period of 22 days (February 13th - March 6th) after obtaining evidence from 35 individuals, inclusive of 22 Army personnel, 7 Police officers and 6 civilians.”

Cell phone access to daughters

It further said the commander turned politician has been granted the privilege of speaking only to his daughters residing in the United States over the mobile phone, following a request made to the authorities. Gen. Fonseka had reportedly commenced a fast unto death demanding access to a phone with international dialling facility to enable him communicate with his daughters.

The main charge against Gen. Fonseka, which he has denied, is that he put together a group of retired officers and soldiers to overthrow the government and assassinate the President. Another allegation is that he indulged in corrupt deals with respect to Army supplies.

Uproar over Fonseka’s detention

The detention of the General had caused uproar within and outside the island nation and the government had been under pressure from several quarters to immediately release him and have a transparent probe into the allegations leveled against him. A senior Minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government had recently gone on record that the retired General would be tried in the civil courts as well on charges of violation of Foreign Exchange Control rules and other counts.

Gen. Fonseka has challenged the detention in the Supreme Court, and the case came up for its first hearing on February 23. The Supreme Court refused to entertain the plea for his immediate release.

The retired General is leading an electoral alliance in which the JVP is one of the leading members and is also a contestant for the April 8 general election. It is immediately not known whether the commencement of trail would have any impact on his candidature in the Parliamentary election.

© The Hindu

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