News / Asia

Losing Presidential Election Candidate Arrested in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's defeated presidential candidate and former army chief Sarath Fonseka addresses reporters in Colombo, 08 Feb 2010
Sri Lanka's defeated presidential candidate and former army chief Sarath Fonseka addresses reporters in Colombo, 08 Feb 2010

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The former Army commander who recently lost Sri Lanka's presidential election has been arrested by the country's military.

Supporters of former General Sarath Fonseka say he was forcibly taken away by heavily armed troops while meeting with several senior opposition leaders at the offices of the Peoples Liberation Front, known as the JVP.

The Sri Lankan military, which Fonseka used to head, says the retired Army four-star general faces fraud charges connected to his tenure in the armed services, which ended last November.

Lakshman Hulugalle is the director general at the military's Media Center for National Security.

"All offenses were done when he was the commander and the chief of defense staff.  So all of those charges will be taken into the military court," he said.

Both Fonseka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa were touted as war heroes for last year's crushing defeat of the rebel Tamil Tigers, ending a quarter century civil war.  But the two allies soon split with the former Army boss contesting the January 26th election, which the incumbent president won by an 18 percent margin.

The loser alleged vote rigging and a plot to kill him after ballots were counted.  The government in turn contended Fonseka was connected to a post-election plot to assassinate President Rajapaksa.  But Sri Lankan government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella says the former general has not been detained in connection with those allegations.

"The conspiracy, we do not know of the details.  It will be revealed after the questioning by the court martial," said  Rambukwella.

International observers have not supported the opposition's contention of rigging of the vote counting.  But human-rights groups have accused the government of intimidating and threatening opposition supporters and some journalists after the election.

Earlier this month, the president fired a number of senior military officers who were termed, by the defense ministry, to be a "direct threat" to national security.

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