News / Asia

Sri Lanka Opposition Outraged by Ex-General's Arrest

Sri Lanka's opposition parties are protesting the arrest by the military of their defeated presidential candidate, the former top Army commander credited with helping to defeat the Tamil Tiger rebels.

A day after the arrest of former opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, Sri Lanka's government called the former top military chief a man "hell bent" on betraying the nation and conspiring against the president, who defeated him.  

Government and military officials say Fonseka faces a court-martial for getting involved in politics before his retirement, last November, and disloyalty for saying he would testify about war crimes committed against the Tamil Tigers.

A U.S. State Department report has accused the military and the defeated rebels of possible war crimes.

At a news conference in Colombo Tuesday, the former general's wife, Anoma Fonseka, tearfully called his arrest "an abduction", saying soldiers refused his request, as a civilian, to surrender to the police.

She says the family does not know where he is being held and calls on the government to release that information.

The military denies Fonseka is being held in a secret location and says the family and legal counsel are allowed access to him.

Fonseka contested last month's presidential election as a candidate of a coalition of opposition parties. He lost to the incumbent, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, by an 18 percent margin.

The leader of one of those parties, Rauff Hakeem of the Muslim Congress, says the way Fonseka was apprehended Monday night is reprehensible.

"He was summarily hauled, dragged by his feet and legs and taken away in a very undignified and humiliating fashion.  And, for all of us, it was evident that this is a government which is simply not dictatorial but fascist and they are all out to humiliate him, harass him and go on a journey of vendetta and witch hunt," said Rauff Hakeem.

Fonseka and others in the opposition alleged rigging of the counting of ballots, after the January 26 presidential election. The election commissioner has stated there is no evidence of any tampering.

Since the election, both the government and Fonseka have traded conspiracy allegations. Government officials say some former soldiers who supported Fonseka have been arrested for a post-election plot to assassinate the president. Fonseka denies any involvement and accuses the president, considered an ally during the civil war, of wanting to see him killed.

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