Rajapaksa orders release of jailed ex-army chief

May 20th, 2012 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, May 20 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has pardoned jailed former army commander Sarath Fonseka and authorised his release, a presidential spokesman said Sunday.

Bandula Jayasekera said the document authorising Fonseka’s release was signed by the president before he left on an official visit to Qatar Saturday evening, Xinhua reported.

“President Rajapaksa signed the papers and handed them over to his chief of staff before leaving for Qatar to enable the release of Fonseka. The papers will be sent to the justice ministry on Monday,” Jayasekera said.

Fonseka led the army during the final battle against the rebels which eventually led to the end of the three-decade-long civil war in May 2009.

However, he was arrested and jailed after he contested against Rajapaksa for the post of president during the 2010 elections.

He faced charges of harbouring army deserters, illegal arms dealings and allegedly telling a newspaper that soldiers shot dead unarmed Tamil Tiger rebels who had surrendered during the final stages of the war.

Fonseka, who is receiving treatment for an ailment at a private hospital in Colombo, will be freed once the papers are sent to the prison authorities.

Rajapaksa last week obtained his cabinet’s approval to free Fonseka from prison.

Jayasekera insisted the decision to free Fonseka was not as a result of international pressure or demands from local political parties.

An opposition legislator reportedly had several discussions with the president to secure Fonseka’s release and later told reporters the talks had been a success.

Sri Lanka Friday celebrated three years of the end of the civil war.

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