Colombo, Sri Lanka: “Sri Lanka’s defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka was arrested on Monday, and will reportedly face charges of military offences committed when he headed the army,” officials said.
Fonseka, a retired four-star general who lost to President Mahindra Rajapakse in the 26 January election, was taken into custody by troops who stormed the offices of the main opposition alliance which had backed his candidacy.
“They forcibly took away General Fonseka while he was having a discussion with three other senior opposition leaders,” a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Front (JVP) said.
“The general refused to be taken away. They grabbed him and virtually carried him away after threatening the others,” the spokesman said adding: “There must have been over 100 soldiers.”
The office was cordoned off by heavily armed troops who blocked reporters and photographers from entering the building and taking pictures.
The state-run Daily News said that Fonseka (59), was arrested for unspecified military offences.
The dramatic arrest came a day after a private newspaper said Fonseka could be hauled before a court martial to answer charges of plotting a coup to topple the government.
Earlier this month, Rajapakse sacked a dozen senior military officers whom the defence ministry said were a direct threat to national security.
The government has sought legal advice on using a military court to fast-track proceedings against Fonseka who led the army to a crushing victory over Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year.
During their head-to-head at the ballot box, both Fonseka and Rajapakse had sought to take credit for the spectacular military success that ended the Tigers’ 37-year-old separatist campaign.
Rajapakse won the election easily but Fonseka has vowed to challenge the result in the supreme court.
The government insisted the election was free and fair but the US and the European Commission have pressed for a probe into allegations of vote fraud.