Chaos in Colombo court after ex-army chief gets new jail termNovember 19th, 2011 - 12:35 am ICT by IANS
Colombo, Nov 18 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s main court complex took almost the look of a battleground with supporters of the jailed former army commander Sarath Fonseka protesting a further three year prison sentence announced Friday.
In a 2-1 split verdict, the three-judge Colombo High Court bench gave Fonseka a three year sentence for “spreading rumours and causing public disorder,” which refers to his statement that president’s brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had ordered soldiers to kill any Tamil Tiger rebel who came to surrender, reported Xinhua.
Despite many police battalions and barricades and people closely screened before entering the court premises, a large number of supporters had managed to enter to see their leader and hear the judgment.
The massive crowd could also not be controlled by a order obtained by police to declare the vicinity a high-security zone and prevent any gathering.
Fonseka, who is considered a war hero for leading the army to victory in a war against Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, entered the court premises amidst cheers by his supporters.
Another thousand supporters who were unable to get into the court house waited outside. They greeted the news of the three-year sentence with anti-government slogans and hurled abuse at the judges.
They also performed a ritual, breaking coconuts in front of a Buddhist shrine outside the court calling for curses on the two judges who convicted former army commander.
For hours, Fonseka’s supporters blocked the road to thecourt complex and the former army chief had to be detoured to prison after the verdict.
In response to the verdict, Fonseka said that he did not accept the judgment.
“This is an unfair judgment and is even against the natural justice. It only fulfilled the aspiration of a politician who wanted to keep me out of politics by imprisoning me,” Fonseka said, making somewhat an emotional statement from the dock after the conviction was pronounced.
He said that if not revised, this judgment would be a black mark on Sri Lanka’s judicial history.
“If the people of this country think that an injustice is caused to me, I invite them to stand against the inequality and injustices of this country,” he said.
He also said that military under him never involved in war crimes or violated international regulations relating to war.
“The army on my orders was respecting the international rule and regulations. They protected nearly 12,000 Tamil Tiger combatants who surrendered,” Fonseka said in court.
“Had anybody ordered not to accept those surrenders at that stage, as a respectable army officer I would have endorsed to punish such a person.”
Nalin Ladduwahetty, the defence attorney for Fonseka, said that he could not agree with the judgment and would file an appeal soon.
Former chief justice, Sarath N. Silva, who supported Fonseka in his presidential election criticized the judgment saying that it was not according to law.
Caught in a series of litigations, Fonseka who had been found guilty in two courts martial and on Friday’s High Court trial is facing yet another case in which he has been accused of harbouring military deserters.
He is already serving a 30-month jail term after a court martial convicted him on August 2010 of irregularities in army procurement while he was army chief. With the latest verdict, Fonseka will have to spend three more years in jail when he finishes serving his first sentence in February 2013.
In a coincidence, the verdict against Fonseka was delivered on the birthday of his main political opponent Mahinda Rajapaksa and also the date he reassumed duties for the second tenure as the president of Sri Lanka.
Fonseka, who led the military to victory against Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, fell out with the government and unsuccessfully tried to unseat incumbent Rajapaksa in presidential polls in January 2010.
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Tags: army chief, army commander, buddhist shrine, coconuts, convic, court bench, court premises, defence secretary, emotional statement, jail term, massive crowd, natural justice, police battalions, prison sentence, rajapaksa, sarath fonseka, security zone, split verdict, tamil tiger rebels, war hero