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Mahinda Rajapakse confirms 30 month jail for Sarath Fonseka

Mahinda Rajapakse confirms 30 month jail for Sarath Fonseka

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s president has confirmed the 30-month jail term imposed on former army chief Sarath Fonseka following his conviction by a military court, an official said Thursday.

President Mahinda Rajapakse approved the prison sentence for a period of two-and-a-half years after returning Wednesday from New York where he addressed the UN General Assembly, a senior government official said.

“The court martial has recommended up to three years in jail, but the president has decided he will be in prison for 30 months," the official, who did not want to be named, said.

Fonseka, 59, was charged with four counts of making irregular purchases for the military when he was its commander at the height of fighting with Tamil Tiger rebels.

The conviction on September 17 came after Fonseka was stripped of his rank and pension following another court martial that found him guilty last month of dabbling in politics while in uniform.

Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has said the military court process was seriously flawed and is appealing to a civilian court against the verdicts.

Fonseka fell out with the government and unsuccessfully tried to unseat Rajapakse, 64, in January presidential polls.

Fonseka was arrested two weeks after his defeat in the elections and has remained in military custody since. However, he won a seat in parliamentary elections in April allowing him to attend parliament.

He has said the government is seeking revenge for his decision to stand against the president and wants to keep him from speaking in parliament.

The first court martial ordered the removal of the medals he had earned during his 40-year military career as well as stripping him of his rank and pension.

He also faces civilian charges of employing army deserters, as well as revealing state secrets — offences that carry a 20-year jail term. He has also challenged in the Supreme Court the re-election of Rajapakse.

The 37-year ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka ended in May last year when government forces led by Fonseka wiped out the Tamil Tiger separatist group which had fought since 1972 for a Tamil homeland.

The United Nations estimates that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of fighting between government troops and the Tamil Tigers.

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