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Sri Lanka's ex-army chief released from jail

Sri Lankas ex-army chief released from jail

Colombo: Former Sri Lankan Army chief Sarath Fonseka was formally freed from prison Monday following a presidential pardon.

Large crowds gathered outside the prison to greet Fonseka, who was imprisoned in 2010 just days after he lost to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential election.

‘I am now a free man,’ Fonseka told his supporters, adding that he dedicates his life to all those who stood by him.

His supporters lit fire-crackers as the former army chief walked out of prison.

Presidential spokesman Bandula Jayasekera said Sunday the document authorising Fonseka's release was signed by the president before he left on an official visit to Qatar.

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 the island-country in May 2009.

However, he was arrested and jailed after he contested against Rajapaksa in 2010.

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.

At the time of the release order, Fonseka was receiving treatment for an ailment at a private hospital in Colombo.

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.

On May 19, Sri Lanka celebrated three years of the end of the civil war, which is believed to have claimed about 70,000 lives.


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